We, the European Union Delegation to Botswana, my colleagues and I, are very pleased to be here with all of you to undertake this noble exercise, the cleaning of the Bokaa Dam. I am also happy that we are joined by the French Embassy.
As you will all attest, water is life. And in our semi-arid country, it provides a very precious resource. The critical importance of water in Botswana is captured in the motto; PULA (let it rain). I have been in this country less than a month but I have understood that when you wish people well or safe journey, you say tsamaya ka pula (meaning let it rain for you). That tells me how important water is in this country.
And that is why, I believe, Botswana over the years has continued to spend large amounts of money in building dams around the country in order to ensure water security for its people. The revamping of the North South Water Carrier Pipeline and the upcoming second pipeline of the North South Water Project are all testaments to this.
This dam, the Bokaa Dam, is another example, and we are pleased that the EU, through the European Investment Bank played a role in its establishment in 1994, in order to increase water supply to the Greater Gaborone. And I am equally impressed that you, the Bokaa, agreed to give up your land for this dam.
As the European Union we are very grateful that the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC), the Department of Sanitation and Pollution Control and you, the Bokaa community, have all seen the need to join us for this event, helping to create a cleaner environment and keeping our water sources clean.
This exercise is not only important in itself, but it is also part of a wider EU awareness campaign known as #EUandME, dedicated to #OurOcean, a campaign that highlights the amount of plastics in our oceans. The exercise is a forerunner to the upcoming Our Ocean Conference.
The reality is that every year millions of tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans. It takes hundreds of years for it to degrade and when it does, it gets disintegrated into tiny pieces, unwelcome and dangerous guests in our food chain.
A quick check on facts and figures shows that around 95% of the marine litter ends up at the bottom of our ocean, causing damage to the seabed, fauna and flora. Only 5% is washed ashore. This means that when cleaning a shore, we only see the tip of the iceberg, in this case our dams, Bokaa dam included, unfortunately.
Globally, 640 000 tonnes of fishing gear are discarded into the ocean, every year. Marine litter damages business in sectors such as tourism, fisheries, and energy, as well as the respective local communities.
As world leaders come together for the 5th OurOcean Conference in Bali, Indonesia on October 29-30, Botswana will be looking at making history two days after with the planned ban of plastics.
The EU commends Botswana for this bold step, and we are also committed to play our part, at home and abroad, for a healthier, more sustainable ocean and thriving coastal communities. Within the EU, we are banning a number of plastic products and we are launching a global awareness campaign on plastics.
Ladies and gentlemen, we all have a responsibility for the reduction of plastic waste in our daily lives. And I believe we have to start with ourselves and our own habits. I would like to announce that the Delegation yesterday has formed a Recycling Action Group, with the objective to recycle all our plastic, glass and paper waste. My colleague Delphine has the lead and will start to investigate how this could be done locally.
So, in conclusion, I would like to see our joint endeavours here at the Bokaa Dam as a starting point for our efforts of creating a greener and cleaner environment, while at the same time supporting the people of Bokaa Village. We hope that this initiative will spread in Botswana, to clean up other dams and rivers.
Ke a leboga, Pula!!! Pula!!