Modified Transboundary Water Interaction Nexus (TWINS): Xayaburi Dam Case Study
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Critical Hydropolitics and Actors
2.2. Transboundary Water Interaction Nexus (TWINS)—Data Collection and Interpretation
2.3. Adapted TWINS Framework—Six Levels of Cooperation Intensity
- Silent cooperation (+1) is the lowest level of cooperation, where water issues are vaguely acknowledged, joint actions limited, and willingness of strategic actors to establish further cooperation remains shallow . This cooperation can be found between local communities that keep their businesses without strict regulations or when relevant actors show determination to invest without requiring any significant institutional effort and mobilizing other material assets from strategic actors . It may also represent administrative and other procedural actions such as the confirmation or notification between governmental institutions that must be done.
- Exploratory cooperation (+2) is the second type of cooperation where strategic actors reach a consensus to undertake certain joint actions as a matter of necessity  but they lack shared goals and knowledge about the water issues. At this point, strategic actors delegate the responsibility for pioneering the future path for water cooperation on other actors, particularly the relevant actors as a result of low technical capacity, political incapability, or lack of funds to develop its own international watershed. This type of cooperation oriented on feasibility, impact, and other preparatory studies is generally considered a first step towards building mutual trust, undertaking joint research and formulating common goals to more effectively spend material assets [25,33].
- Strategic cooperation (+3) is the third type of cooperation where strategic actors undertake joint actions and identify shared goals but disagree on how to reach these goals . There are several signs of deepening cooperation, particularly in terms of organizing various intergovernmental forums, summits, and other meetings with various stakeholders to re-consider existing water cooperation [14,17,38]. These semi-official encounters serve as a platform for discussing technical, administrative, and legal details before ministerial and other supreme representatives will make a final decision.
- Accountable cooperation (+4) is a situation in which strategic actors agree upon the same procedures but still prefer to cooperate on a legally non-binding basis that is more flexible for cross-sectorial coordination. Ministerial meetings are becoming frequent and strategic actors are more willing to support non-economic cooperation, including flood and drought management, environmental protection, and law enforcement . Strategic actors may then establish a water commission to facilitate transboundary and adaptive water governance , share hydrological data or set the guidelines for environmental protection. While some reforms may help to achieve various national priorities, states do not existentially depend on these measures, which is why they keep these visions in the realm of guidelines and consents.
- Affinitive cooperation (+5) synchronizes state policies and formally re-assure existing cooperation on legally binding agreements . Strategic actors are also more willing to promote data sharing mechanisms, reconsidering controversial water projects, or adopt new legislation for further coordination in transboundary water governance . This level is represented by leader meetings, summits, and other prominent regional events and various actions of goodwill such as sharing hydrological data or a leader’s assurance of investments in certain sectors.
- Intuitive cooperation (+6) describes the full entanglement of political agendas beyond the river . Privileges and responsibilities for sustainable river development are blurring, international agreements overcome initial expectations, and strategic actors are willing to adopt binding agreements both at an international and domestic level without demanding reciprocity [5,40]. For example, strategic actors design a new code of conduct for secondary actors to involve them in transboundary water management or decide to release more water for free without demanding to cover associated costs in downstream countries.
2.4. Adapted TWINS Framework—Six Levels of Conflict Intensity
- Non-politicized conflict (−1) is the lowest level of conflict where strategic actors have virtually no conflict of interests over shared waters. At this stage, strategic actors do not put in the effort in conflict resolution of local peace protests or occasional acts of crimes between secondary actors in the borderland areas because they have a low impact on transboundary water governance and do not require any retaliatory actions from strategic actors [5,7,8]. Water issues are perceived as a natural cause without any political connotation  and any non–violent confrontation is mostly solved on a local level.
- De-politicized conflict (−2) describes a process in which strategic actors are intentionally obscuring the character of the politics [28,41] and are marginalizing certain water issues to avoid further political friction. Although conflicts are primarily driven by secondary actors who criticize local authorities for not addressing their concerns , conflict resolutions are made in a purely technical manner and rarely overcome the fixed threshold for public discussion [28,29]. For example, secondary actors may peacefully send letters of concern, create petitions, and invoke other protest actions against planned dams or decisions of strategic and relevant actors. These actions are usually uncoordinated, outcome-oriented and based on uncertainty, but at the same time, they can be ceased by political guarantees and other forms of a state’s assurance.
- Re-politicized conflict (−3) represents disputes that periodically recur as a result of incapability of strategic actors to find plausible solutions. Water issues come under scrutiny from both politicians and the public , which produce a growing number of civil protests demanding any kind of change within existing political discourse [29,42], which may undermine trust in science and strategic actors. For example, secondary actors may force local authorities to reconsider their development plans or demonstrate against foreign construction companies that displace local communities with appropriate compensation. These actions are well-coordinated, process-oriented, and usually based on independent scientific evidence that feeds fears about existing water disputes.
- Politicized conflict (−4) demonstrates a process in which strategic actors put water issues into broader political agenda for further considerations [6,26,28]. Water issues and even non-water issues become medialized and interpreted in desirable ways to justify certain stakeholders’ interests [6,17,43,44]. At this point, strategic actors experience public outcries, official verbal attacks, tacit threats, and other warnings, including domestic trials with various secondary and relevant actors to solve the conflict of interests. While water disputes are still under the control of finding a compromise through an official letter of concern and other inquiries that may address the state’s concerns, the actual solutions are becoming more symbolic and politically acceptable rather than structural.
- Securitized conflict (−5) is a situation in which strategic actors perceive water-related issues as an existential threat , undertake certain emergency measures to ensure their control over shared waters , or face civil unrests, public riots, and other forms of direct confrontation that require retaliatory actions. Although strategic actors may break existing agreements, consolidate water disputes through the international arbitration, or undertake military training in the borderland areas within the basin, justification and legitimization of national aims still do not require any violent means .
- Violent conflict (−6) is the highest intensity of conflict, where strategic actors use any form of physical force to get control over specific territories within the basin  or coercive other actors to act in certain ways . Strategic actors openly demonstrate mutual hostilities, lack of communication, and violent encounters both at the international and domestic levels. Such actions may include blocking the river flow, bursting water dams or destroying bridges to get control over the strategic chokepoints.
3.1. Water Cooperation and Conflict Event Analysis
3.2. Contours of the Transboundary Water Interaction
3.3. Evolution of the Transboundary Interaction
4.1. General Overview and Limits of the Study
4.2. Laos–Thailand Relations
4.3. Laos–Cambodian Relations
4.4. Laos–Vietnam Relations
Conflicts of Interest
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Grünwald, R.; Wang, W.; Feng, Y. Modified Transboundary Water Interaction Nexus (TWINS): Xayaburi Dam Case Study. Water 2020, 12, 710. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12030710
Grünwald R, Wang W, Feng Y. Modified Transboundary Water Interaction Nexus (TWINS): Xayaburi Dam Case Study. Water. 2020; 12(3):710. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12030710Chicago/Turabian Style
Grünwald, Richard, Wenling Wang, and Yan Feng. 2020. "Modified Transboundary Water Interaction Nexus (TWINS): Xayaburi Dam Case Study" Water 12, no. 3: 710. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12030710