The Okavango Delta Legal Framework
The political and legal framework regulating the management of the Okavango Delta in Northern Botswana, its water, land, and natural resources is extremely complex. On a local level this is caused by frictions among traditional users, initially hunter-gatherers and latterly agriculturalists, professional hunters, and tourist operators. These uses are managed by systems of wildlife management areas, game reserves, and national parks with a trend in time away from informal local management to national governance. The Delta receives all its water, apart from direct rainfall, from the upstream riparian countries of Angola and Namibia. To manage this has resulted in the formation of a joint management structure, the OKACOM. In particular, the biological productivity, biodiversity, and beauty of the Delta makes it unique, and it has therefore been gazetted both a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Ramsar Convention and a “World Heritage Site” under the UNESCO. However, the uniqueness of the Delta is the product of the inflowing water: the quantity water, chemistry, and sediment transport. None of the protective measures address this fact, and as the pressure from the two upstream countries to use the river water for irrigation, diversion, and hydroelectric power production now is escalating, the integrity of the Delta is under serious threat. An improved agreement between the three riparian states is needed to address the standards of the inflowing river water, maintenance of water quantity and hydro-period, nutrients and bicarbonate concentration, as well as sediment transport. This will in turn require agreements about developments in the whole drainage basin. Such ambitions are reflected in the joint OKACOM documents, while the national plans on the contrary express the urgent ambitions to enter into river water exploitations. The risk that such actions will result in the destruction of the Delta environments is considered to be very high.
KeywordsInternational river basin Irrigation Joint management OKACOM Okavango Delta Ramsar Southern Africa UNESCO Water diversion
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