Experts from the eight countries that share the Zambezi Basin are meeting in Windhoek to review the current environment and the impact of climate change.
The meeting called the Zambezi Environment Outlook, Stakeholders Consultative Conference will provide a current update and introduce new and emerging issues, following the publication of the widely acknowledged State of Environment Zambezi Basin 2000 study, which was the first environmental assessment of a single ecosystem in Southern Africa. Stretching across parts of the eight SADC member states, namely Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe - the basin is a source of livelihood for many of the people in those countries.
The conference is expected to discuss key issues in the basin, including increased and frequent torrential rainfall that has resulted in floods in some parts of the basin, including the Caprivi Region in Namibia and the Lower Zambezi in Mozambique. It will also discuss climate change and other critical issues to be included in a report profiling the Zambezi River Basin expected to be published in 2015. Communities in the Zambezi Basin depend on socio-economic activities ranging from agriculture, forestry, mining, to conservation and tourism.
However, human pressure on natural resources coupled with climate change has resulted in an inevitable impact in the basin, affecting socio-economic development. "The massive Zambezi Basin is thus, undoubtedly, a vital resource that holds potential for closer cooperation of the eight riparian nations," said the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa during the opening of the meeting.
"Namibia realises and accepts that access to relevant information at local, national and basin levels is vital and provides a sound basis for environmental decision-making," Mutorwa said.
Since 1998 Namibia has been producing the State of the Environment Reports for the eight riparian states. "Agenda 21 recognises that access to information is a valuable strategic move, that helps to define and support meaningful strategies, to address the threats from environmental changes, and that the acquisition and provision of timely, effective information on the state of our natural resources is an important factor to the attainment of sustainable natural resources management," he added.
According to the minister, the conference comes at a time when human activities, climate change and variability have, at times, brought about drastic, disruptive and destructive changes in the basin's environment over the past decade, consequently, impacting negatively on the countries' socio-economic development. "We, thus, need to urgently find appropriate strategies, individually and collectively, to sustain and protect these resources, so that they continue to meet the current needs as well as those of generations to come," Mutorwa told participants at the three-day meeting underway in Windhoek.