Monday, October 19, 2020

Reports of Okavango damming spark fear in Botswana

Botswana authorities fear for the future of the Okavango Delta following reports that Angola is in the process of damning the highlands of Cuito and Cubango where the river originates. Okavango is a delicate world heritage site which is home to scores of endangered wildlife species. Botswana confirmed this week that it has been made aware of the reports that Angola has given a Chinese company a chunk of land within the vicinity of Cuito and Cubango in Angola for mining and agriculture purposes along the river that flows into Okavango Delta.  The latest reports come at a time when there are fears that water extractions from the Okavango river basin and the hydro-power development in Namibia could pose a threat to Okavango. Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama confirmed this week that they have received reports about damming of the river in Angola.  

He said that this could have negative impact on the amount of water that flows into the Okavango Delta. Khama said that they were informed that trenches were being dug to divert the river in Angola for agriculture use.   He told Sunday Standard that the issue has been referred to the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources for further investigation. Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila confirmed that they are investigating reports that the river mainstream which flows into Okavango River is being dammed in Angola.  Mokaila stated that he could not disclose details about the possibility of damming in the mainstream safe to say the government through its partners is investigating the reports.    

Mokaila stated that at the moment there was no information in relation to the damming of the river after the Chinese companies were granted land rights for mining oil in Cuito and Cubango. The latest damming reports comes at a time when there are fears that the abstraction of water for agriculture in Namibia and the proposed hydro power station could pose a danger to Okavango Delta which is the lifeblood of the tourism sector in Botswana. The Permanent Okavango River Basin Commission (OKACOM), Dr Ebenizario Chonguica stated in an interview that he was not aware about the latest reports on the damming as a result of mining in Cuito and Cubango. Chonguica stated that Angola, Botswana and Namibia formed the Permanent Okavango River Basin Commission (OKACOM) with the purpose of promoting sustainable management of the river basin through the development and implementation of comprehensive basin wide management plan. He further stated that they found no damming of the river mainstream which flows into the Okavango when they visited the highlands of Angola where the river originates last year November.

“There were no signs that there was damming of the river mainstream. We will look at the issue. I am not quite sure if there could be mining of oil in the area when most of oil companies mine in the offshore fields and coastline,” added Chonguica.

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