In the eye of the climate change storm

Climate change and associated weather variations are forecast to present immense strains in most of Botswana’s natural resources over the next century with ‘water being in the eye of this climate change storm’. Worst still, development analysts say the country’s growth beyond middle-income status would be inhibited by the climatic ailment, BABOKI KAYAWE writes

Floods and landslides dominate news headlines from all ends of the world.  Those who understand the language of the waters increasingly announce temperature rises at the depth of the oceans.   Dryness and scorching heat crack not only the ‘flesh’ of the earth, but the human skin too.

These are just but some of the current occurrences owing to climate change, with much more predicted for the future.

Humanity is living in the 11th hour – a rather self-imposed torture and hardship as the race for developmental undertaking was done in a rather painful way that wounded and left the weather bleeding.


“This is really scary for us as farmers as we eagerly await to see how government will respond. But I must hasten to say the body which coordinates all departments concerned with drought has been silent, the activities started very late, by now government must have announced how it is going to help farmers in alleviating the impacts of this drought,” Kgasane Tsele said, adding the “response team must always be on alert and respond early”.  The farmer decried that food production and sufficiency are highly compromised by the prevailing weather condition, which demand practicable coping and readiness interventions to avert damage.  Tsele, a southern Botswana based farmer remarked at the presentation of the seasonal rainfall outlook from the period 2015-2016 early this year, by the Department of Meteorological Services. 

The department reported an extremely dry season in the southeastern part of the country and the prediction was termed the worst ever-dry season in the past 34 years in the area.

The announcement came just when Botswana is emerging from yet another dry season, which has left water resources severely strained.

Two of the southern dams that supply water at national levels namely Gaborone and Bokaa Dams have officially dried up, while Nnywane dam with a holding capacity of 2.3 million cubic metres is lately at 51.1 percent, with a predicted nine months of supply without inflow, according to Water Utilities Corporation website.  The Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila is concerned at the far-reaching challenges presented by global warming and related climate changes across local resources, especially the water sector, which by far is the most hit.

He voiced his worries at the climate change forum held at the University of Botswana (UB).

“Water is at the eye of this climate storm,” he said.

“This is evident in Botswana where the severe drought, from our previous rainy season is now dragging on long into our spring season. Due to climate change impacts, water resources in Botswana are already facing challenges of reduced dam levels, reduced river flows and a decline in ground water levels,” Mokaila said. 

He added that imperative sound and comprehensive mitigation measures be implemented to avert the likely repetition of the situation of water shortage already faced by the country.

Construction of wastewater treatment facilities and major refurbishment of existing ones, installation of disinfection systems to improve water quality, as well as optimisation of conservation measures and protection of water resources are some of the mitigation and adaptation strategies the minister identified for the water sector.

According to the country’s Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Botswana will be directly affected by climate change through the key sectors that underpin its social and economic development, in the agriculture sector, crop productivity will go down, while the growing season will shift and get shorter.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) deputy resident representative, Lare Sisay reiterated Tsele’s fears that agriculture sector, (though with specific reference to the livestock sector) – would experience changes in grass species composition, with increases in undesirable species, and would also be affected by water shortages.

“These impacts have far-reaching impacts on social and economic sectors, which have not yet been quantified and factored into the country’s economic projections. The implication of these impacts is on the country’s developmental outcomes – social, economic and environmental, which are going to be dampened by climate change,” Sisay said.

“For example, Botswana is already experiencing the bulk of these impacts, and will have consequences on the country’s efforts to grow beyond middle income country status,” said Sisay.

He added that sectors through which growth and diversification would be realised for example, would greatly be affected by water stress.

 

“These impacts have far-reaching impacts on social and economic sectors, which have not yet been quantified and factored into the country’s economic projections. The implication of these impacts is on the country’s developmental outcomes – social, economic and environmental, which are going to be dampened by climate change,” Sisay said.

“For example, Botswana is already experiencing the bulk of these impacts, and will have consequences on the country’s efforts to grow beyond middle income country status,” said Sisay.

He added that sectors through which growth and diversification would be realised for example, would greatly be affected by water stress.

Already, he said the country is spending a lot of money to pump water to cities like Gaborone because of drought, which diverts significant resources that could be driving development in other areas of the economy.

As Botswana develops its own climate change policy, whose implementation has great cost implications as reforms are needed to realign traditional agricultural practices with this climate challenge, experts have advised that the document to address the question of how increased use of coal reserves for power generation would rise the currently low country emissions. The policy is due for presentation at the November parliamentary session.

However, Mokaila has vowed not to stunt the country’s growth and risk holding the wheels of development though the biggest polluters in the developed west failed to do so.  He warned though that best practices in terms of emission standards and utilisation of available clean coal combustion and emission abatement technologies in the market must be met.  

Endowed with vast coal resources and in the middle of the worst revenge from nature, Botswana is at crossroads; the rage and harsh realities of climate change are without a doubt upon the semi-arid country.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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