MAUN: Acting director of the Okavango Research institute (ORI) Joseph Mbaiwa has slammed the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism for freezing research and filmmaking permits.
In a press release, the Ministry announced that issuing of new permits for environment research, filmmaking and photography are suspended with immediate effect until further notice. This applies to the Okavango Delta. The suspension applies to renewal of any existing or expired permits. The release says Batswana are not involved in independent research projects or films. It further says researchers and filmmakers do not account for their movements and that there is lack of compliance with statutory requirements to deposit research outputs and filming products.
The release further accused some researchers for lack of adherence to proper animal care and welfare protocols in particular fitting of tracking collars.
In an interview, Mbaiwa acknowledged problems caused by independent researchers, especially who cause a lot of congestion. “As ORI a legally licenced institute undertaking research in the Okavango Delta, some of these researchers affect our operations.
There are instances where we have failed to finish our funded research on time due to overcrowding,” Mbaiwa said.
The academic however said it was not necessary to freeze licence issuance, but to deal with the errant researchers than freezing the whole process, which may affect research work. “They know all the problematic researchers, why not take disciplinary actions on those individuals,” Mbaiwa said.
The Ministry said in freezing licences they would review existing standards, conditions and procedures for conducting environment research, filming and photography. The Ministry said they will call a consultative pitso on the issue.
In 2013, a similar forum was held in Maun where it transpired that some researchers are in fact operating tourism businesses under the guise of research. During that forum the researchers called on Government to help develop research tourism in Botswana.