The managements of the Okavango River Basin in Botswana, Namibia and Angola on Wednesday received a boost of a USD 2.2 million from the Swedish government.
Speaking at the event marking the funding agreement at Audi Camp in Maun, the Swedish Government representative, Cecillia Ornberg, stated that Sweden is committed to contribute substantially to the regional development agenda in Southern Africa.
“Integrated management of the basin’s natural resources and environment is an important element of Sweden‘s development policies and activities in the area,” said Ornberg.
The Swedish government offered to assist the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM), which oversees the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland, and wetland ecosystem, to start-up a Secretariat in Maun. The grant will fund the Secretariat for three years after which contributions from the three countries would increasingly support this key institution.
“This Secretariat is going to provide administrative and technical support to OKACOM,” said Akolong Tombale, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, who was also present at the occasion.
Tombale stated that the Botswana Cabinet recently approved the hosting by Botswana of the
Secretariat. “The Secretariat marked an important advancement in the on-going management of the river basin and reflected a commitment on behalf of all three countries involved,” said Tombale.
He said the OKACOM Interim Secretariat, funded through USAID, had contributed tremendously to the establishment of the OKACOM Secretariat and commended it for a job well done.
Established by Angola, Botswana and Namibia, as a unique entity in 1994, OKACOM’s aim is to strengthen mechanisms for joint implementation, develop a transboundary diagnostic analysis and to formulate a Strategic Action Plan for the Okavango Basin. Its role is to manage the river basin in a coordinated and environmentally acceptable manner, taking into account the needs of all three countries.
The commission consists of representatives (Commissioners) from each of the three member states who are senior officials from government ministries. OKACOM provides a forum for the commissioners to communicate, network, share concerns and prepare advice and recommendations to address problems.
“This river basin is particularly important because over half a million people live along the length of it,” OKACOM said on its website (www.okacom.org) The website also highlighted that the river is still free from pollution, and that the Okavango Delta is still an internationally recognized site of ecological importance.