Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Suspension of research permits in the Okavango stalls UN aided work

The recent decision to suspend research permits,film permits and photographic permits in game reserves, national monuments and national parks has stalled a United Nations sanctioned academic research in the Okavango Delta.


University of Botswana Okavango Research Centre, Proffessor Joseph Mbaiwa who was tasked with collecting data about the use of coal, diesel,petrol power generators in lodges in the delta is worried that the suspension will affect his ongoing research.


Mbaiwa stated in an interview that the decision was wrong as the  government went ahead to suspend the issuance of research permits.


He said this has effectively declared him a prohibited immigrant inside the  Okavango Delta.


Mbaiwa stated in an interview that other partners in the UN sanctioned project are expected to arrive this month but due to suspension of the permits he is unlikely to provide data that they wanted.


He said the suspension has stalled academic research even at University of Botswana Okavango Research Centre.


The Centre was opened to improve environmental knowledge of the Okavango Delta.


 Mbaiwa indicated that the study was funded by European Union where they tasked him with providing information on the use of coal ,diesel and petrol generators .


 Mbaiwa who was tasked with a project called  “ Fossil Free Wetlands” of which  the intentions is to make Okavango Delta free  from using coal,diesel and petrol engines to power lodges has likened the suspension to someone who has been declared a Prohibited Immigrant.


“ I am unable go  to collect data because I don’t have research permits. The move was wrong,” added Mbaiwa.  


 He said that he was not happy about suspension of issuing permists because the research centre was not consulted.  


He said that the government has taken that decision knowingly that students do carry research  throughout the year at University of Botswana Okavango Research Centre.


He said the project that is funded in partnership with European Union was meant to find out if it was possible for camps in the delta to switch from the use of coal, diesel power generators to solar power.


Mbaiwa said that it was disheartening because the funders had already set a meeting where they want data about the use of fossil fuels  by  some lodges in the delta.


Mbaiwa was of the view that he could be providing  information about the use of fossil fuels in the delta  . “The problem is that there is unwiliness to allow me to go into the delta to provide data where stakeholders can be provided with that  information . It is important to use renewable energy and reduce the use of fossil fuel such coal,diesel and petroleum products,”added Mbaiwa. He said that worldwide countries are moving towards using renewable energy.


He said that the study was important for the country to move away from using fossil fuels which  lead to contamination and pollution of fresh water in the delta.


Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Research Coordinator,Gaoakanye Tapeng says the government suspended issuance of  Environmental Research, film and photography due to challenges that they are facing.


Tapeng stated that international media are  flocking the country for filming and  photography  in  national parks,game reserves and protected areas,cultural heritage sites and national monuments.

He said that this was due to lower rates charged for issuing a license  for those interested in filming,photography and environmental research.


 Tapeng said that the perception that Botswana was getting a mileage from the international media such as BBC and National Geographic were baseless.


Tapeng said that international media and business in this areas were avoiding to go to other areas because it was expensive as compared to Botswana which charges P1000 for film making and photography to international media.  He said that the suspension will allow them to take stock of themselves on how to address challenges that they are currently facing.


However Tapeng decried unethical behaviour by some film makers and proffesional photographers as one of the reasons behind the  suspension of environmental research,filming and photography permits by government of Botswana.

Tapeng says the suspension applies to national parks, game reserves and protected areas, cultural heritage sites and national monuments.


Tapeng  says such unethical behaviours are in  relation to filmmakers who market themselves claiming that they offer under water excursions in crocodile infested rivers such as Okavango and Chober rivers.

He said those claiming to be offering underwater excursions market themselves by luring tourists that they are able to play with crocodiles.


Tapeng said that such unethical behaviours could have serious repercussions, including legal difficulties to the Government of Botswana.



He said the permits have been suspended until September this year.

Tapeng also indicated that the suspension will not affect tourists who visits such sites.


Read this week's paper