The North West District Council (NWDC) has commenced consultations as part of plans to have among others Lake Ngami declared a planning area.
Addressing councilors at Maun sub council meeting, Principal Physical Planner Abednico Sebedi said the consultation is part of the implementation of Botswana’s land policy of 2015, which seeks to have Botswana as a whole declared a planning area.
“Initially the idea was to declare the entire Sehithwa village a planning area bearing in mind its strategic location as it has been earmarked to be Ngamiland sub district headquarters,” he said.
Sebedi added that “We foresee an influx of applications for residential, civic and industrial plots which we think will need proper management, hence the need for the declaration.”
Should the declaration take place, Sebedi said it is likely that there will be a reduction of conflicts in land uses. He said the growth of the village managed and at the same time protecting the environment.
Sebedi did not rule out the possibility of people being faced with a challenge of not conforming to planning requirements.
The declaration is expected to bring about the much awaited development in the area. It is expected it will also attract job seekers and other people looking for profitable opportunities. He said the only setback might be the issue of squatting in the Botlhatlogo and Bodibeng areas because of their close proximity to Sehithwa village where the lake is situated which is why they want to include the two areas in the proposed planning area.
He stated that currently they are grappling with issues of land degradation at the lake as a result of the large number of people who frequent the lake.
“Nevertheless we remain hopeful that since Botswana Tourism Organization has plans in place to set up tourism facilities along the lake area, there will be need for upcoming developments to be managed in a suitable way,” he said.
Commenting on Sebedi’s report, councilor Kebareeditse Ntsogotlho noted that while the declaration is commendable “as it is anticipated to create a pleasant view for tourists who frequent the area, there are a number of aspects which should be thoroughly looked into.”
This he said include how communities will be affected as most them lead nomadic lifestyles. Most of the people, he said, constantly relocate during times when the lake spills and only return to their farms when it subsides. Already, he said, the lake has started spilling on grazing areas, thus having a negative impact on farmers whose livestock die in the process. He stressed the need for communities to be consulted as they have exclusive rights. He further stressed the need for a proper timeline to be availed, adding that failure to provide such might in a way lead to unforeseen consequences.
In response, Sebedi pointed out that Council is not yet at planning stage and that their main focus currently is the declaration part to facilitate planning. He said even though ranches do not encroach on the planning area, his office will still use area specific guidelines as well as the district settlement strategy as guiding principles to ensure that everything falls into place. He promised also that there will be no change of lifestyle as people will still enjoy free movements.
“Sehithwa area is even much bigger than Maun as it comprises farms and ranches. So some issues will be attended to at planning level. As for the set time frame, I would say we are at the mercy of the Minister of lands and housing to officially make the declaration which we hope will be done before end of 2017”, he said.
Meantime consultations with communities which are going to be affected are ongoing.