Friday, January 22, 2021

No SEA guidelines for Botswana

When Botswana as a country submitted its then Intended Determine Contributions (INDCs) in 2015, now National Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it submitted that it would execute its implementation guided by three documents.

NDCs are actions a country commit to reduce its Green House Gases (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. The three documents are: The Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Sustainable Land Management (SLM) and National Water Master Plans.

All these have a lot to do with rigorous planning. There have to be other documents that direct or advise what the plans must consider about environmental issues when planning for sustainable developments. There was need for Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) document.

However, when an SLM project that was funded by UNDP and other stakeholders was being implemented, it turned out that there were no SEA specific guidelines in Botswana; as the Project Manager, Virat Kootsositse revealed in his Frame Report.  Yet, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) as an ‘overseer’ of the project recommended to the implementing Non Governmental Organization (NGO), Birdlife Botswana that it utilizes SEA.

Wrote Kootsositse on his report; “In Botswana there are no SEA guidelines, however the UK based expert, Mr. John Mills who has extensive knowledge on SEA evaluations, was advised by DEA to use a UK and Kenya standard and related legislations.”

Mills was engaged specifically for evaluation of SEAs in the project. The project’s first component was; summarily, implemented to put in place systems and capacities for applying improved range management principles over 1,900,000 hectares of rangelands. Its activities were targeted at the entire Makgadikgadi Framework Management Planning (MFMP) area, but with other more detailed support for land use planning focusing on the Boteti Sub-District.

Its second component was meant to facilitate the conditions necessary for development and successful implementation of local integrated land use plans in pilot villages. This would empower local institutions to improve resource governance and stakeholder participation in regional dialogues on the importance of mainstreaming SLM into rangeland management for local development.

It was aimed to remove barriers by supporting communities to mainstream SLM principles into the Sub-District-wide land-use planning, and at Southern Sua Pan into both livestock production – through strengthening Farmer’s Associations and providing through them technical backstopping to enable farmers to improve livestock productivity whilst enhancing rangeland conditions- and arable farming; through conservation agriculture. The project was completed in 2017.

Sunday Standard contacted the relevant ministry for clarity on the absence of these important guidelines and the impact the omission can have in sustainable land use.

Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) in the ministry, Thabang Botshoma explained that there are no SEA guidelines for Botswana under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act of 2011.

However, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is using the guidelines for conducting SEA studies for plans, programs and policies which were developed under EIA Act of 2005, together with guidelines from other countries such as Kenya and the UK in the development of a review of SEAs.

“National Development Plan (NDP) 11 was subjected to SEA process using the same guidelines. Such District Development Plan (DDP) includes the Tlokweng and Kweneng Development Plans.  Funding has been secured from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to revise “Guidelines for Conducting SEA studies for plans, programs and policies under the Environmental Impact Act of 2005 to align them with the new legislation which is also under review,” said Botshoma.

He said Botswana has got its own guidelines, however the country continues to refer to guidelines from other countries and international bodies to augment and improve on its guidelines.

“Utilizing guidelines/ standards from other countries is common practice as demonstrated by use of South Africa, World Health Organization and European standards even beyond the environmental sector,” he said.

Botshoma concluded by highlighting that the government takes the development of SEA seriously as it will contribute handsomely to the ease of doing business in Botswana. This he said is so because if SEA has been developed, the process of developing EIA would be significantly reduced.

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