Many major rivers discharge into the Black Sea and bring major nutrient pollution, leading to rapid plant growth and eutrophication impacts in the ecosystem. Yet, the Black Sea cannot replace the lost oxygen during this process due to its natural conditions, such as low salinity, low density, very limited connection to larger seas and oceans, and low vertical and horizontal circulation. This resulted in about 90% of the sea to have anaerobic conditions and caused serious consequences on almost every aspect of life for basin countries. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the riparian countries that recharge the sea began cooperating to address the pollution problem despite numerous international conflicts they had had with each other. Some progress has been made so far, but tense diplomatic relations persist. Little improvement of international relations has taken place in the region due to environmental cooperation. This study seeks, based on a range of interviews with stakeholders and archival research, to understand how this environmental cooperation initiated and survived despite the diplomatic impasse. Moreover, it seeks ways to improve the effectiveness of the cooperation and translate this cooperation to improvement of the international relations among the riparians. As part of the solution, this study suggests giving more authority to the local level institutions handling day-to-day management of the Black Sea. This research is of special interest for government workers employed at units that handle international water management, policymakers focusing on environmental policies, and members of academia conducting relevant research.

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