Bana ba Metsi clean up ferry station

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On February 2, 2019, Bana ba Metsi School organised a clean-up campaign on both sides of the Okavago River at Mohembo.

In November, we had previously cleaned up the east side of the river with a group of staff and students.  In this latest effort we engaged the communities of Ngarange and Mogotho. 


A total of 15 community members participated, along with the nurse from Mogotho, nine students from Bana ba Metsi School and four staff members.  In November, a total of 21 bags of refuse were collected.  During this latest effort, we collected an additional 35 bags.


The topic of climate change has been talked about since the 1980s and the latest research paints a very bleak picture.  If we don’t take action now, the earth’s natural ecosystems will deteriorate to a point where they are not able to keep the temperature at an acceptable level.


Some scientists are expecting this to happen as early as 2030 resulting in rising sea levels and the disappearance of coastal and island communities. 


We human beings will be able to mitigate the effects by installing more air conditioners further accelerating the problem. 


But what about the trees, insects, birds and nature in general?  They will be at the mercy of our actions, or inactions.


Last week I was waiting for the ferry at Mohembo and a small storm was preceded by a big wind.  For me it was very sad to see tin cans, plastic bottles and take away trays blowing into the Okavango River. 


I tried to grab what I could but it was a futile effort.  Millions of metric tonnes of plastic waste go into our oceans and rivers every year.  One estimate is around 26 million tonnes.  Plastic isn’t very heavy so that’s a lot of it.  This is killing our wildlife, soiling pristine beaches and doing untold damage to the environment.  But the world in general is failing to take the problem seriously.


I recently read a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition in the United States to find a route from St. Louis to Oregon over the Rocky Mountains.  

They encountered indigenous tribes who had never seen white people.  What struck me the most about this was that the year they took the expedition was 1806.  

So, essentially we have succeeded in messing up the whole world in the span of a little over 200 years, a drop in the bucket compared to the total history of mankind.  What will the next 200 years bring? 

In this day and age it should be completely unacceptable to drop your rubbish on the ground or throw it out the car window.  But I see it all the time at the ferry.  People from all over Botswana come to Mohembo to see the River and ferry.  It’s a local tourist attraction.  

They take selfies and have themselves photographed on the ferry.  The water bottle, beer tin, cigarette butt or crisp packet they have in their hands is often just tossed when they finish.  But what they don’t seem to appreciate is that we drink that water.  From Shakawe to Gumare, and from Mohembo to Gudigwa, the Okavango River is our source of drinking water. 

I will be dead before the full extent of the damage we are doing to the planet is realised, and so will many of you reading this article.  But what about your children and grandchildren? 

They will experience the disaster first hand and have to try to find solutions to the problems the current generation is creating.  It is the responsibility of everyone to start taking climate change seriously now, for the sake of future generations. 

Steven Harpt

Bana Ba Metsi School

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