Is the ecosystem approach effective in transboundary water systems: Central Asia as a case study?

Lei Xie*, Imad Antoine Ibrahim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


In the context of international environmental law and International Water Law (IWL), the Ecosystem Approach (EA) has become a source of heated debate. In recent years, there has been growing recognition of the negative impacts that human activities have on freshwater ecosystems. Accordingly, the protection of such ecosystems has been identified as integral to ensuring the good governance of water resources. This article reviews key areas of research around the conceptualization and application of EA. First, we adopt a holistic approach to the concept of EA when applied to existing environmental challenges, before exploring the issues that arise when applying EA to water-based ecosystems. Next, we assess the effectiveness of implementing EA in the management of environmental issues linked to transboundary water contexts. Our findings indicate that International Environmental Law, which applies a sector-specific approach, poses challenges for the instrumental implementation of EA because the latter requires a holistic approach to resource management. Furthermore, in transboundary water contexts the competing needs of river-basin countries are also identified as key factors complicating the implementation of EA. The article concludes with recommendations for policy makers and scholars. This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness Engineering Water > Planning Water Human Water (WBAA) > Water Governance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1542
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Central Asia
  • China
  • ecosystem
  • India
  • Mekong

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