International river basin management : a case study of the Okavango River Basin.
This dissertation reviews the principles of International River Basin Management and their application by the governments of Angola, Botswana and Namibia. The dissertation deals with the issues popularised by governments, water planners and international agencies that the twenty-first century's conflicts will be fought over water. Increasingly this concern is being used to justify new water-supply dams and river diversion projects. This is especially so in arid Southern Africa, the focus of this dissertation, where numerous major international water transfers are underway and many more are being planned. While Namibia's growing thirst is a serious problem, the story is more complicated than just too many basin states putting their straws into one glass. The growing conflicts over the Okavango's water use raise broader questions about ownership of common resources, and equity of access to those resources. Most southern African countries depend on primary natural resources to sustain economies and their people. The environmental issues are remarkably similar in countries within the region, and the economic, social and political fortunes of the individual countries are intertwined. Furthermore, the ways in which resources are being managed are similar and thus cause for common concern. In general, the ability of countries in the region to achieve sustainable development depends not on national policies but also on the commitment of neighbours to practice sound environmental management. This is because activities in one country can easily cause impacts on a neighbour and possibly result in "downstream" opportunity costs. This case study of the Okavango River Basin, a river facing prospective developments from riparian states Angola, Botswana and Namibia, attempts to find sustainable solutions to solving international resource conflict. In addition to outlining the possible future threats to the Okavango River, this study proclaims a number of recommendations in the way of declaring alternatives to Namibia's plans to extract water from the Okavango River. One such recommendation is the encouragement of Water Demand Management as an alternative to water transfer by Namibia. This management strategy is aimed at optimising the use of available water rather than developing new or extended supplies and as a result it has a vital role to play since it contributes to sustainable development rather than over exploitation of limited natural resources. The majority of large rivers in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are shared by three or more countries, and as the region's water resources come under growing development pressure, the importance of establishing effective national and regional methods and institutions for sustainably managing these resources will increase greatly. From economic, ecological and human welfare perspectives, the Okav,ango River Basin is arguably one of the most important transboundary natural resources (TBNR) in the region. Owing to the basin's remoteness and history of conflict, the Okavango was spared much of the destructive developments that rivers in the region have suffered. As a result, the relatively pristine Okavango ecosystem continues to provide significant benefits to the region much as it has done for centuries. As we approach the new millennium, however, it is clear that the health of the Okavango River Basin is threatened as riparian states increasingly turn to the Okavango to support their growing populations and economies.