The European Union (EU) and OKACOM have signed a €1.65 million grant that will facilitate cooperation on transboundary water management in the Cubango-Okavango river basin at the Delegation of the EU to Botswana and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Addressing the gathering on Wednesday, EU Ambassador to Botswana and SADC, Alexander Baum said the Cubango-Okavango river system, rising in Angola and flowing through Namibia to the Okavango Delta in Botswana was one of the world’s few remaining naturally clean water resources.
He explained that the river’s presence in the dry sands of the Kgalagadi was highly valued by the three countries, which established the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) in 1994 to advise the member States on how best to share and manage that unique resource.
“The three riparian countries have different but legitimate perspectives of the same river system while Angola, where most of the water originates, benefits from the most reliable and highest rainfalls, Namibia and Botswana are two of the driest countries of Southern Africa; which makes water resources available in this region highly valuable,” he said. He added that Botswana was the final recipient of the water and therefore abundance of water, the timing of the flow and nutrients give the Okavango Delta its highly biodiverse habitats and wildlife, making it a worldwide tourist destination considered by many as one of the most beautiful regions of the world.
Baum also pointed out that future development plans, especially in the agricultural sector could have a negative impact on the quantity and quality of the waters in the basin, thus strongly affecting the future environment and other associated uses such as tourism and overall status of the ecosystem and services.
“This can be avoided through proper management of the resources in a collaborative and joint manner. In order to help the
He explained that the € 1.65 million grant signed Wednesday between the EU and the OKACOM was part of that € 6 million programme. The grant is said will be used for three-and-half years. For his part, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services of Botswana, Thatayaone Dedede expressed his immense excitement over the occasion. Dedede said their ambition as riparian states was to use those resources to better livelihoods of their countries, address social challenges and economic needs for their people. “The impacts inflicted on the river’s health, environment and the entire ecosystem remain at the core of the efforts that we, the riparian countries have invested and continue to explore, to ensure that the management and exploitation of the basin is safe and presents opportunities for national development and economic growth,” he said.
He said the EU’s provision of financial support to their countries in reference to data collection and water resource management will help streamline efforts to manage quality information that will add value on the conservation, allocation and sustainable utilisation of the basin resources. Dedede added that it would also support their efforts in developing effective measures that create prospects to redress poverty, boost the tourism service sector and create employment opportunities for their communities.