Botswana’s ambitious project to pump water from the Chobe/Zambezi Rivers to ease water shortages in the country is facing hurdles.
This comes after a Zimbabwean newspaper, The Financial Gazette, last week quoted Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Water Resources and Development, as resisting Botswana attempts.
“Zimbabwe has objected to Botswana plans to draw water from upper Zambezi,” Nkomo said. “This has already been communicated to Botswana.”
The paper further quotes Nkomo saying: “We as a country have received an environment impact assessment, studied it and we are advised that it will be inappropriate for Botswana to draw water from upper Zambezi because it would affect the falls at Victoria Falls itself.”
Botswana, Nkomo said “have been advised to build reservoirs at confluence of Chobe and Zambezi and draw water when the tide is high and that when the tide is low that will not be allowed”.
Commenting on the story on Monday, the Principal Public Relations Officer of Water Affairs and Energy Resources, Potso Thari, denied that Botswana had received objections from the Zimbabwean government in regards to drawing water from Chobe and Zambezi Rivers.
She, however, confirmed that in June 2009, they made a request to draw water from the Chobe and Zambezi rivers by notifying the Zambezi River Basin States on Botswana’s plan as per the requirements of SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses.
Then in February 2010 Botswana notified the concerned states that it was preceding with the implementation of the planned measure.
After that, towards the end of 2010, Zimbabwe is said to have submitted comments on Botswana’s request to draw water from the two rivers and Botswana believed that what was now left for the two states was to “discuss the comments and reach a consensus on issues raised”.
Zimbabwe has in the past objected to the building of a bridge on the river between Zambia and Botswana, saying it would hamper the flowing of the river.
The bridge is currently being built on the Botswana/Zambia side.
Opposition parties in the country have long been calling on the government to draw water from big rivers surrounding Botswana, such as Chobe, Zambesi and Okavango in order to start irrigation farms in the country as the weather of the country is arid and its rainfall unpredictable.
Two weeks ago, the Botswana Congress Party Member of Parliament for Okavango constituency, Bagalatia Arone, criticized the government for failing to do like the Namibian government has done by pumping water from Okavango river to start irrigation farms, “which will make Botswana self sufficient in food and create employment for the unemployed people in the country”.