Okavango River

okavango-channel_1126_990x742River Okavango is in Southern Africa countries. It originates from Namibia as the Kubango River and flows through Angola, Namibia and Botswana. Its largest tributary, River Kwito, joins the Okavango River after the stretch that serves as a border between Angola and Namibia. From its source, it flows southwards through the Kalahari Desert before draining into a swampy delta. Unlike all other long rivers in Africa, the Okavango has no outlet to the sea. Instead, it drains into a flat, swampy triangular delta that stretches for approximately 240 kilometres in width.

The Okavango flows through a woodland country with dense vegetation along its upper course. The vegetation of the Okavango Delta itself is of two main types. One has dense papyrus reeds while the other is a patch of woodland savanna. The growth of papyrus interferes with river flow and often forces the river to change its course as well as inhibit navigation. The woodland savanna has a wild infestation of tsetse flies. For a long time now, the Tswana people from Botswana have been unable to exploit the potential of the river due to the infestation.

The Okavango River is a complex food chain that supports a large ecosystem including people, livestock, and cultural values for the people of Botswana. It is a habitat to a wide variety of birds and animals. Some of its teeming wildlife varieties are endemic to the region, making it an ideal tourism joint. Tourists and locals flock the parks in the delta yearly to watch the exotic birds and animals in their natural habitat. They also engage in recreational activities like game walks, game viewing, photographic safaris and boating. River Okavango has more than 150,000 islands embedded in its channel. With a width of up to 200 metres and a depth of 4 metres, its islands range in sizes from small 1 metre long islands to huge islands that stretch on for more than 10 km in length. The water volumes fluctuate during the wet and dry seasons, sometimes the wet months doubling that of the dry season.

Angola, Namibia and Botswana have a United Nations convention that manages the biodiversity of the Okavango River. Together with the South Africa Development Community (SADC), the two have formed frameworks to combat desertification and pollution of the shared water resource. This is because shortage of clean drinking water is a crisis in most urban areas. There are about 1,113,000 people living on the Okavango delta that need safe drinking water. This population is part of the larger 60 million in the SADC region that rely on river Okavango for safe drinking water, an essential service neglected by government, to the detriment of many.

Water conflicts are not a new incidence in modern society. Namibia and Botswana are countries that often experience drought during dry seasons. To safeguard their water supply, Namibia plans to divert the waters of River Okavango into the country to ease the unpleasant effects of drought. On the other hand, Botswana gains economic benefits from tourism and industrial use of Okavango’s water. With the high rate of evaporation experienced during dry seasons, Botswana fears losing more volumes of water through Namibia’s diversion canal. To prevent conflict arising from conflicting interests, Angola, Namibia and Botswana formed the permanent Okavango River Bsin Water Commision (OKACOM). The OKACOM provides advice to the three countries on the efficient sharing of Okavango water.

 

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