Professor Joseph Mbaiwa of the University of Botswana's Okavango Research Institute (ORI) in Maun has warned that if tourism is not properly managed and controlled, it may exacerbate the threat to biodiversity and sustainable use of resources in the Okavango Delta. Making a presentation at the 17th Waternet/WARFSA/GWP-SA SYPOSIUM in Gaborone on Wednesday Professor Mbaiwa said although the Okavango Delta is one of Africa's prime wildlife tourism destinations, the tourism industry is beginning to pose some environmental threats on water resources due to poor waste disposal. Citing existing researches, Professor Mbaiwa said that poor waste disposal such as using septic tanks for wastewater collection in hotels is posing threats of ground-water contamination and pollution. According to Professor Mbaiwa, previous researches indicate that septic tanks for human waste are not constructed following any environmental standards, and in some camps such tanks do not exist except for the 'pit latrines'. Poor liquid waste disposal, petroleum products waste and littering were also stated as some of environmental threats which the tourism sector expose the delta to. These, according to Professor Mbaiwa, include oil spillages mainly from servicing of vehicles or boats, kitchen waste, discharge from ablution blocks to mention but a few.
According to the ORI Professor, Sewerage discharge into water either by different lodges and camps established in the delta or from house boats lead to contamination of surface and groundwater. He added that in addition to poor waste management, there are challenges of over increasing boat activity for tourism development in the wetland. "Capacity limits in some tourism development are being exceeded in some parts of the Delta, hence compromising environmental conservation in such areas," he said. Meanwhile when giving a keynote address at the symposium the Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Prince Maele said the government of Botswana recognises that land and water are a source of sustenance of livelihoods and are the basis for socio-economic development. These two natural resources, he said, drive the activities that improve the industrial and well-being and grow the wealth of the country, the communities and the citizenry at large. Therefore water security, sustainability and development underscores and supports the security, sustainability and development of countries, regions and their respective populace.
According to Minister Maele, the global water resources quantities and quality have been adversely affected by climate change and the water supply systems are plagued by series of operational and structural problems and pollution. The population growth, and the resultant growth in demand for land and water, has also according to Maele put immense pressure on these resources and the sanitation services. "We need integrated water management strategies to ensure water security, sustainability and development within our region. These strategies need to be informed by information that you are going to share and generate during this symposium," said Maele. According to Maele, developing strategies for Integrated Water Resources Management calls for business people, civil society, government and academia to work together, saying that it is through such collaboration that they could have a conversing reckoning for dealing with local and trans-boundary water issues, surface and groundwater on an integrated approach. The symposium, according to the Minister, comes at a time when Botswana and the southern African region face challenges in availability and sustainable use of freshwater resources.
The Symposium was hosted under the theme: "Integrated Water Resources Management: Water Security, Sustainability and Development in Eastern and Southern Africa". It is a platform for water professionals to share advances in research and education related to Integrated Water Resources Management. The Symposium offers a chance to stakeholders in the water sector to share their research experience, learn and create lasting links to experts, in the water sector.