Bots gets $145m for drought mitigation

By Mpho Tebele

GABORONE – Botswana has secured a US$145.5 million loan from the World Bank for the Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project to address the aftermaths of the El-Nino that affected the Southern African region last year.

Commenting on the loan, the World Bank country director, Paul Noumba Um, said the project would help Botswana cope with increased water stress arising from a number of factors, including chronic droughts.

“The proposed measures are therefore critical for the sustainable development of the country, particularly given current climate change projections,” he said.

According to the international bank, the project was prepared in response to the 2015-2016 El-Nino-related drought, which was rated extremely severe – the worst in 34 years.

Although droughts in Botswana are chronic, acute events such as the 2015-2017 drought further aggravates the fragile water balance.

In 2015, overall dam levels fell below 20 percent of their design capacity; and ground water sources in several water supply schemes dried up or became saline.

According to the bank, the project would improve the availability of water supply in drought vulnerable areas, strengthen waste water management in selected systems and improve the operational efficiency of the Water Utilities Corporation. World Bank task team leader, Mukami Kariuki, said while the recent rains have alleviated the dry conditions faced over the past three years, due to low recharge rates, groundwater levels would take several years to recover.

Kariuki noted, “The Project will also support the government’s on-going efforts to integrate and manage surface and ground water resources more effectively.”

In a statement, the World Bank says that around 460,000 people in select settlements would benefit from augmentation or rehabilitation of existing water supply systems; and about 177,000 people would benefit from improved wastewater treatment and sludge management systems.

In addition, the World Bank said the targeted measures to interlink protect and secure surface and groundwater resource would be undertaken, and support for institutional strengthening and capacity development provided, in order to improve the efficiency of services and sustainability of water resources in Botswana.

The southern African region experienced successive El Nino events during the cropping seasons of 2014 and 2015, characterised by extremely dry conditions, heatwaves, drying up of major dams and associated crop and livestock failure.

The El Nino in Botswana caused at least six heatwaves in the last cropping seasons, decimating production and leaving at least 50,000 Batswana in rural areas food insecure, according to May estimates from the UN.

In 2016, the Botswana government released P445 million in drought relief measures, which included support for the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme, a 25 percent subsidy to farmers on certain livestock feed purchased through the Livestock Advisory Centres as well as nutritional support for vulnerable groups.

Some countries in the northern parts of the region experienced flooding, which devastated agricultural output.

President Ian Khama, in his capacity as the SADC chair at the time, launched a global appeal for US$2.7 billion (P29.6bn) of relief aid. The aid was expected to go to 23 million citizens wallowing in extreme hunger in the region, with experts warning of imminent deaths.

March 2017
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