Cameroon revises its 1998 Water Law to improve water governance

Since its adoption in 1998 as the principal judicial law governing water resources in Cameroon, the Water Law N°98/005 of April 14, 1998, is being revised for the first time.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Energy (MINEE), with the technical support of the Global Water Partnership, Central Africa, and the financial support of the GEF through UNDP and the Lake Chad Basin Commission, organized a three-day national multi-stakeholder consultation to ensure a participatory approach in the revision of the 1998 Water Law. The workshop took place in Douala on August 16–18, 2023, and brought together about fifty stakeholders from government ministries, the private sector, industries, river basin agencies, CSOs, Decentralized territorial authorities, public utility companies research institutions, and technical and financial partners (BAD, l’AFD, IUCN, and UNICEF). The participants had as their main objective to review and enrich draft 0 of the revised law, which was elaborated by the revision committee set up by the Minister of Water Resources in September 2022.

Almost 25 years after its adoption, the Water Law is considered obsolete by relevant stakeholders due to several socio-economic, environmental, and institutional landscape changes. Explaining this further to the press during the workshop, GWP-CAf’s executive secretary, Djibrilla Mohamadou, said, "The creation of the Sanaga Bassin Commission cannot move forward because it must be based on a legal framework; however, the current Water law does not take this into account". Some key factors not included in the 1998 Law are the five principles of IWRM, shared management of river basins, protection of surface and groundwater sources, governing package water producers, the absence of a regulatory body in charge of knowledge sharing by actors in the water sector, and the absence of a finance mobilization plan, amongst others.

    Madi VoundouSpeaking on the objective of the stakeholder consultation process, the Director of Water   Resource Management,  Madi Voundou,   reiterated that the aim is to gather the concerns, contributions, and expectations of the various national and international stakeholders to adapt the new water regulations to the current water and climate change context. He added, "This consultation process will continue through other workshops so that the stakeholders gathered here (who will be raising observations later) can ensure that their concerns are taken into account in the final document before its submission to the hierarchy for the continuation of the procedure to adopt these texts".

The meeting was presided over by the representative of the Minister of Water Resources and Secretary General, Adolphe Djouke Thome. Over the course of the three workshop days, participants examined the draft in detail, deliberated, and made pertinent contributions to the nine chapters of the new law, which will address water management on a broader scope and consider connecting factors influencing the water sector like climate change and the environment. The stakeholders defended their action areas while providing relevant contextual information to enrich the new law. 

At the end of the meeting, the technical committee made up of members of the committee in charge of the revision process, presented key recommendations and next steps for the adoption and validation of the new law. While giving feedback on the workshop, Professor Fonteh Mathias said, "It was participatory and inclusive, considering that feedback could be given verbally or in writing to the technical secretariat. I'm looking forward to the new draft with the contributions made here today".

GWP-Central Africa’s contribution to the revision of the Water Law

In accordance with its mission to promote better management of water resources through effective water governance, GWP-CAf is accompanying the government in the water law revision process. Within the framework of GWP’s Water, Climate, Development, and Gender (WACDEP-G) program, a preliminary consultation was held with the working group in charge of revising the law in October 2022 to establish their training needs with regard to gender. Based on this needs assessment, gender-focused training was developed and delivered by GWP-CAf to the planning, programming, budgeting, monitoring, and evaluation chain of the water and environment government ministries in December 2022. The aim of the training was to enable them to better consider gender in the different stages of project development and in the elaboration of legal texts in the water sector.

 This new law will ensure improved management of water resources, which will influence the development of related sectors (energy, agriculture, industry, transport, tourism, etc.). It will also help the government better address the urgent water issues facing the country (water shortages, floods, droughts) and foster the implementation of the National Development Strategy 2030 and eventually Cameroon’s Vision 2035.