The State of The Zambezi Basin 2000.
30 June 2000
(Reviewed by Tinashe Madava).
STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT ZAMBEZI BASIN 2000.
The book,with a separate summary in English and Portuguese, is published by the SADC Environment and Land Management Sector (ELMS), SADC Water
Sector Coordination Unity (WSCU), the World Conservation Union Regional Office for southern Africa (IUCN-ROSA), the Zambezi River Authority
(ZRA) and the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) with support from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA)
The State of the Environment Zambezi Basin 2000 marks the first
time that an assessment of a single ecosystem has been undertaken and reported upon in southern Africa.
While state-of-the-environment reporting in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is relatively new, the traditional approach
has been to focus on national boundaries, natural resources or sectors.
The report, to be launched at the SADC summit in Windhoek, Namibia next month, seeks to increase public awareness through the provision of information,
education and participation on environment and development issues in southern Africa. It is also aimed at expanding regional integration and global
cooperation on environmental and natural resources management.
In a foreword to the report, Mozambican President and SADC Chairman, Joachim Chissano says that the preparation of this report is in line with the 1996
SADC Policy and Strategy for Environment and Sustainable Development whose aim is to strengthen the analytical, decision-making, legal, institutional
and technological capacities for achieving sustainable development in southern Africa.
The Zambezi basin report has been published in English while the Portuguese version is forthcoming. It is an attempt to highlight the environmental
issues in the basin and bring attention to areas of concern.
The Zambezi river basin is the most shared water resource in the whole of SADC and it is utilised differently by people living along it.
Eight riparian countries share the Zambezi. These are Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The State of the Environment Zambezi Basin 2000 is
the first such report to look at a major ecosystem in the region.
It points out that sustainable use and equitable access to resources can significantly contribute towards poverty alleviation in the region.
In its introduction, the report stresses that communicating the status of the environment is a pivotal task for "sound and smart planning for
a sustainable future".
About 30 ethnic groups are found in the Zambezi basin. The basin is home to about 40 million people. With such a population, sound environmental
awareness is vital if the rich basin is to sustain its habitants.
There are many environmental concerns in the basin associated with development planning lacking an integrated ecosystem perspective.
Chissano, in the foreword, points out that an integrated management of natural resources is the key to maintaining ecosystems and
the essential services that they provide.
Land degradation, poor watershed management, sewage and industrial pollution, drainage of wetlands, water abstraction and general
infrastructural development have reached a magnitude which calls for urgent action in terms of environmentally sound economic
development and management.
The report says that land is an important resource on which most economies depend. However, such dependency is undermined by
climatic changes and land tenure arrangements.
The book has wide ranging topics that are shared by all the basin countries. One of these topics is land. "A common trend in the
basin is that the majority of the people have less or no access to arable land," says the report. Often, access to land is through
inheritance, allocation and purchase that follow patriarchal lines.
The report gives an example of Zambia where 90 percent of the land available for agriculture falls under customary land controlled
by chiefs who follow patriarchal principles in terms of allocation.
Since all riparian countries benefit from the basin's resources, there is need for cooperation in natural resources management.
Cooperation among the basin countries should be cross-sectoral and take into account social and economic policies and programmes
over and above environmental resource management.(SARDC)