European Union External Action

Keynote Address by Ambassador Jan Sadek EU Handover Ceremony to OKACOM– Transboundary Water Management in the Okavango River Basin

Gaborone, 12/10/2021 - 14:33, UNIQUE ID: 211012_13
Speeches of the Ambassador

Today’s handover of equipment is part of the effort to establish a new Decision Support System to assist the OKACOM member states of Angola, Botswana and Namibia to make the wisest, most sustainable decisions on the future of the Okavango River and its basin.

EU Handover Ceremony to OKACOM– Transboundary Water Management in the Okavango River Basin

 

 

Keynote Address by Ambassador Jan Sadek

EU Handover Ceremony to OKACOM–Transboundary Water Management in the Okavango River Basin

12 October 2021 – 10:00-12:30

 

Thank you Master of Ceremonies, Ms Haimbodi. OKACOM Executive Secretary Mr Phera Ramoeli, Botswana Co-Chairperson Ms Bonolo Khumotaka, OKACOM and PMU staff members, Technical Assistance Team members, ladies and gentlemen – Good morning to you all

Today I am very pleased to deliver the keynote address at this handover ceremony because, as many of you already know, the Okavango Delta is one of my favourite places on earth. Since I was posted to Botswana, I’ve been privileged to travel there on a few occasions, including during the pandemic, and I’m always delighted by its beauty and dazzling displays of biodiversity.

As you all know, the Okavango delta is a globally important wetland oasis for a myriad of bird species, a World Heritage Site, and one of the most iconic wilderness areas on the planet. But the entire Okavango basin is under threat from pollution, excess water extraction, deforestation, climate change, and potential oil drilling.

The main reasons the EU is supporting OKACOM’s water management programme is to help protect the river, its priceless flora and fauna, and the half a million people who depend on it for their livelihoods, from these serious threats.

Today’s handover of equipment is part of the effort to establish a new Decision Support System to assist the OKACOM member states of Angola, Botswana and Namibia to make the wisest, most sustainable decisions on the future of the Okavango River and its basin.

The Decision Support System is built on a number of data streams on the basin collected from the water, the land and from space with the technology we have transferred.

For instance, the 4 aluminium riverboats and the 8 hydrometeorological sets that we have procured for OKACOM will measure the water’s quality and temperature, as well as the river’s flow and levels over time.

The satellite images we have purchased are providing high-level data on fluctuations in the water’s surface over the last 35 years. For its part, the drone and its camera will allow OKACOM to make in-depth aerial surveys of the river, its tributaries and the land around them. 

The double-hulled sediment survey boats will allow researchers to take sediment core samples from the riverbed, allowing them to look back at thousands of years of sediments which shine a light on past periods of flooding and drought.

The customised hydrological data software will crunch much of the data collected to make projections about the river’s future behaviour based on the historical record. This will feed into the Decision Support System to provide science-based recommendations to decision-makers.

 

By the way, the EU has also deployed a team of senior experts to OKACOM, to help them set up the Decision Support System. Some of these specialists are embedded in OKACOM and others are part of the Ecorys Technical Assistance Team. It is a pleasure to meet some of you here today, my heartfelt thanks to all of you for helping to organise today’s event.

On top of the advanced equipment we have procured, the European Union funded the construction of modern office spaces and the state-of-the-art videoconferencing facility we will be touring in a few minutes, as well as two 4x4s to help researchers travel to remote areas of the river basin. It will be interesting to study the equipment and visit the Office Building later in the progamme!

The value of all supplies and works we procured for OKACOM is €2 million, out of a total EU support to OKACOM’s Water Management Programme of €6 million over 5 years.  

Before I conclude, let me return briefly to the main reasons the EU decided to partner with OKACOM several years ago:

 

The first is protecting biodiversity. This is a core part of our worldwide commitments under the Green Transition, which is a central plank of the EU’s international partnerships. The Okavango certainly deserves protection as one of Africa’s great rivers and one of the last pristine wilderness areas in the world.

 

Another example of Team Europe’s commitment to this area is through Germany and France’s support in the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA), which is the world’s largest Transfrontier Conservation Area, spanning 5 Southern African countries. The EU will soon be supporting KAZA alongside its two largest Member States.

Rich biodiversity is the bedrock of wilderness tourism, and tourism creates good quality jobs for local people.

This leads me to our second interest: improving the livelihoods of the people who depend on the Okavango’s resources.

We want to ensure that riverside communities can continue counting on the Okavango as a source of crystal-clear drinking water and for sustainable fishing and irrigation.

We believe that local livelihoods and fragile ecosystems should not be put in danger by heavy industry and least of all by oil extraction, precisely when the climate crisis demands that we move away from fossil fuels right away. No one here needs to be reminded that this region of the world is already feeling the effects of climate change more than most others.

Finally, the EU aims to prevent conflict before it arises, and we believe that transboundary cooperation around the Okavango is a good way to do this in an area where the interests of Angola, Botswana and Namibia are not always aligned.

Let me close by wishing OKACOM and the Transboundary Water Management project the greatest of successes. I would also like to thank my team at the EU Delegation, in particular Programme Officer Alex Carrasco, who is in charge of our support to OKACOM.

I hope the project will help us all gain a greater appreciation of the outstanding natural heritage that the people of the Okavango have been entrusted to preserve for the enjoyment of generations to come, long into the future.

Thanks for your kind attention and for your warm welcome and of course, I can’t conclude a statement about river water management without saying: PULA!!

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