Botswana and Namibia’s plans to jointly set up a multi-billion-dollar pipeline aimed at drawing from the Atlantic Ocean water to be shared by the two countries are said to still on the cards.
Botswana President Lieutenant-General Seretse Khama Ian Khama (pictured right) reaffirmed this on his recent two-day state visit to Namibia. Namibian President Hage Geingob revealed in 2016 during a function held at the State House that the two governments were in discussions to pump desalinated water from the Atlantic Ocean through a pipeline that will stretch to Botswana. At the time, Geingob said it is a regional project that will be commissioned between the Namibian and Botswana governments to tap water from the sea.
However, he did not divulge more details about the project. During the signing of the boundary treaty between Namibia and Botswana this week, President Khama reconfirmed that both countries are looking into the possibility of investing in a desalination plant. Through the signed treaty, Botswana and Namibia will jointly govern the use of the shared water resources between the two countries along the three rivers; namely, the Kwando, Linyanti and Chobe. Both Namibia and Botswana are semi-arid countries that face regular water crises that threaten the livelihood of their citizens.
“We are exploring the possibility of a desalination plant. Both Namibia and Botswana are very challenged when it comes to water resources. Both of us, for example this year, are not experiencing good rains. There is going to come a time when the rain or rivers coming from the north will not provide sufficient water. So, we are exploring the possibility of setting up a common desalination plant,” he revealed.
He was, however, quick to say that setting up such a project will be very costly – without mentioning any figure.
Mr Khama said given the cost implications, both countries are looking at the possibility of sharing the costs. He felt the best option would be to set the plant up in Namibia and then have the treated water transferred to Botswana.
“We could not, for example, pump seawater through a pipeline to a desalination plant because the salt water would degrade the pipe,” he noted.
He called on the relevant ministries responsible for water to look into setting up the plant as a matter of urgency, considering the fact that both countries are in dire need of water.
Botswana’s capital city Gaborone is grappling with a water crisis, just as Namibia’s capital Windhoek is. Gaborone’s major source of water, the Gaborone Dam, has often been reported to have run dry. Most of the city’s water has to be piped from the Zambezi and Okavango river basins.
In 2004, Botswana and Namibia along with other states of the Zambezi river basin were cosignatories of an agreement establishing the Zambezi Watercourse Commission to manage the riparian resources of the Zambezi. President Khama says the signed treaty is to reaffirm the common borders between the two countries.
“There are a lot of wetlands on the northern border of the Zambezi Region. But it was never really clear to either party where the border of the flat plains on the river is. So that’s why this reaffirmation hopes to remove any doubt and mark the border so that people who commonly operate in those areas – be it the members of the security forces or the general population – will know where the border lies,” Khama said.
President Geingob (pictured right) welcomed the signing of the treaty, saying;
“Let’s welcome it and applaud the two countries for this. With this treaty, we are now freer. We can move around. I am very happy to sign this treaty,” Geingob said.
Both heads of state have committed to continue strengthening the existing bilateral relations between Namibia and Botswana in various sectors such as energy, trade, education, health, environment, defence, the Trans-Kalahari railway line and the Botswana dry port in Walvis Bay.
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