There are fears that the huge amounts of sewage waste that spilled into the Chobe River this past week will result in untold damages to the fragile ecosystem especially the large aquatic life in and around the river habitat.
Also of concern is the potential for diarrhoea outbreak given that people still use the river as a source of drinking water and also of food.
The spillage mainly from hotels, lodges and camps lining the Chobe Rover happened after pumps managed by Water Utilities Corporation broke down.
Since days before the weekend, WUC, assisted by officials from Department of Water Affairs and also from the ministry responsible for wildlife, environment and tourism have been marooned by the spillage that some of them have since called a “tragedy.”
Officials that had been at the scene have described the stench as shocking.
The disaster has resulted in finger-pointing between WUC and Department of Water Affairs.
WUC inherited the infrastructure from WUC as part of the controversial Water Reforms instituted by Government.
WUC engineers have said the infrastructure across the country was a disaster waiting to happen chiefly because of lack of investment to bring it to scale of growths in population.
The biggest fear by officials is that it will take time before the effects and extent of damage on both human and aquatic life as well as the environment become apparent following the spillage.
Chobe like the Okavango Delta to the west is ‘the lifeline of Botswana’s tourism sector, with a pristine but exceedingly fragile bio-diversity and ecosystems.
WUC spokesperson, Beauty Mokoba confirmed the incident.
She said in an interview that the Corporation’s infrastracture experienced a major failure of sewage pumps.
According to Mokoba the breakdown resulted in an accumulation of sewage in some lines while the pump station was going through maintenance.
As a result “overflows were experienced in some parts of Kasane,” added Mokoba.
She further stated that in line with the WUC guidelines all spillage was cleaned to ensure minimal impact on people and the environment. She went further to explain that the situation has since been rectified and there are currently no overflows.
Mokoba also noted that the WUC is monitoring the situation to ensure the normal operation of the sewer system.
She said the sewage pump breakdown was caused by mechanical failure of the pump which could have been as a result of foreign objects.
According to her there was no impact on potable water as it runs on a separate and protected network.
Mokoba could not want to be drawn on whether this raw sewage that spilt on the river could pose a threat to aquatic life in the river.
Instead she said the matter will be investigated to find out what negative effects the spillage could have on the aquatic animals in the Chobe River.
Similar incident happened in July this year where leakages and overflowing of raw sewage from manholes ended up stagnating on top of potable water pipelines which resulted in contamination of drinking water.
After the incident, a number of residents complained of diarrhoea where two people later succumbed to death as result of diarrhoea.
The Chobe District Council, Principal Water Engineer from the Department of Water Affairs Oarabile Serumola informed the council in a July meeting that from the samples that were done they discovered that there were number of contaminated sites around the town.
According to Serumola there was a possibility that the river water was not safe given that there has been overflowing of raw sewage into Chobe River.
Serumola was worried that if the sewage breakdown is not managed properly it could pose danger to the quality of the river system and its aquatic life forms.
It is not the first time that the small tourist town experienced major break down resulting in sewage spilling in the Chobe River.
Water Utilities Corporation has been running helter-skelter since the breakdown on Friday, sending sent the whole tourism enclave into a frenzy as a result of stench but also a scare on the possibility of drinking water being contaminated as well.