Minerals, energy and Water Resources Minister, Kitso Mokaila on Monday admitted that the crippling water shortage that has been ravaging Botswana is one of the key constraints to economic diversification and beneficiation.
Botswana, particularly the southern part, has been facing severe shortage of water since Gaborone dam dried up several months ago. At the same time, the country has been battling with diversification of its economy following a dip in its revenue, which was earned mainly through diamond sales. On Monday, Mokaila told a conference exploring Botswana’s options out of dependence on diamond revenues that the country’s efforts have been slowed down by the low supply of water.
He however revealed that there are various projects which are being explored or undertaken to address the problem, including tapping water from the Zambezi River. Mokaila also told the conference that Botswana has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Lesotho, which he said marked a giant leap towards the process of getting water supplies for Gaborone and surrounding areas.
The deal entails the possibility of tapping into the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which is a joint venture between Lesotho and South Africa through which Lesotho sells excess water to South Africa. Mokaila stressed that the agreement was a “done deal” and what only remains is to draw up a plan and design to implement the agreement. A pre-feasibility study is already being conducted.
He further revealed that all three countries are part of the Orange River system.
“So we all decided to work together. Lesotho has a lot of water in its mountains. You can put a dam anywhere in the country and you will get water,” said Mokaila.
He added that tapping Lesotho’s water would make a huge difference especially to the south of the country. Asked how soon Botswana would tap the water, he said “as soon as possible,” adding that the three governments had instructed their officials to close the deal as soon as possible. The next steps will include all parties coming together to draw up a plan and design, and look at the impact on the communities along the route, and the environmental impact.
“It’s a done deal,” said Mokaila as he further emphasised that the decision between South Africa, Lesotho and Botswana had been finalised.