Unsustainable Human Impact On Zambezi River Basin Environment

By Wallace Mawire


The Zambezi river basin environment has experienced changes over the last two decades – largely attributed to unsustainable human activities – according to a recently released new report, the Zambezi Environment Outlook 2015 launched at the 7th SADC multi-stakeholder water dialogue in Windhoek, Namibia held on 29 to 30 September, 2013.

According to the new report, there have been changes to the Zambezi river basin environment since a comprehensive assessment of a single ecosystem was published in 2000.

It says that over the same period, temperature in the region has risen and rainfall patterns have become more erratic, meaning farmers have to adjust time of planting and crops to grow.

The report launched by Phera Ramoeli, Senior Programme Officer for SADC Water division was published through the partnership of the SADC secretariat, Zambezi Watercourse Commission and the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC).

The Zambezi river basin is reportedly the fourth largest in Africa after the Nile, Congo and Niger basins.

Changes outlined in the report that have occurred in the basin include expansion of urban areas, depletion of wetlands, reduction of forest cover and loss of key species. The report presents policy options for addressing the challenges.

Running under the theme: “Towards strengthening basin wide cooperation and regional integration,” it highlights the state and trends of key environmental resources including land, freshwater, marine and coastal resources, forests and woodlands including wildlife.

It also takes an analysis of issues and covers elements relating to human settlements, energy and atmospheric dynamics.

“Among other changes, the Zambezi Environment Outlook 2015 notes that the basin has been characterised by declining water quality, depletion of groundwater and a surge in aquatic species. It notes that there will be more changes in rainfall patterns over the basin and that a decrease by 10 to 15% by 2050 is expected,” the report says.

Land and agriculture challenges noted in the outlook include declining per capita land availability as a result of growing population, soil erosion and fertility decline, land degradation and soil salinization as well as outbreak of new strains of diseases. The outlook also details issues and challenges in the other sectors such as tourism, energy and industrialisation.

“The Zambezi Environment Outlook is an important milestone for socio-economic development in the basin and the rest of southern Africa as it provides a monitoring tool for basin wide and regional agreements, protocols and targets which include the Zambezi Watercourse Commission agreement, the third Regional Strategic Action Plan for Integrated Water Resources Development and Management, the Revised SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses and the Protocol on Environmental Management for Sustainable Development,” Ramoeli said.

The production of the outlook was made possible through support provided by the government of Germany in cooperation with UKAid and AusAid.

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