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Climate change a threat to okavango delta

TOURISM: Lifelihood of Okavango people
TOURISM: Lifelihood of Okavango people

Climate change is likely to impact on Botswana’s ecosystems in the near future, especially the Okavango Delta, with a probable negative impact on tourism as well as livelihood opportunities for the people’s residing in the basin, the country’s conservation Parliamentary caucus (BOCOPAC) has revealed.

When launching the multi-party committee’s conservation strategic plan for 2021-2024 in Maun this past Saturday, BOCOPAC’s co-chair, Wynter Mmolotsi noted that Botswana is highly vulnerable to climate change due to its fragile ecosystem and semi aridity.

“The temperature is projected to rise between 1 and 3 degrees by 2050 resulting in higher potential evaporation rates,” Mmolotsi explained.

Mmolotsi’s concern was on the future trends in rainfall, which are uncertain because overwhelming majority of general circulation models predicts a rainfall decrease, possibly with more intense rains locally.

“Desertification is a major concern to Botswana and IPCC [Intergovernmental panel on climate change) estimates that by the 2080s the proportion of arid and semi arid lands in Africa is likely to increase by 5-8% . Water scarcity or water stress and land degradation will have negative impacts on GDP, poverty, health and food production.”

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In fact, according to IPCC, the prevalence of rain-fed agriculture in most of the region makes its food systems highly sensitive to the changing rainfall patterns.

For the people in the Northern Botswana who mostly depend on the Okavango Delta which is one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots, the reduction in the water flow from this source will negatively affect their livelihoods including tourism and agriculture.

Okavango Delta is a UNESCO world heritage site which on annual basis receives floods which originates from Angola and these floods help supplement the short and variable rain season often received in this region and the entire country for that matter.

VULNERABLE: Animal species

VULNERABLE: Animal species

With climate change impact expected to increase over years and decades to come , Mmolotsi said this will constitute a threat to development and diminish the chances of the country in achieving some of the millennium development goals (MDGs).

He further added that climate change is likely to add to existing stresses in Botswana, causing significant changes in prevalent vegetation and range land cover, affecting species types, composition and distribution as well as those depending on them.

“The welfare of the people, the performance of the economy and the state of the environment in Botswana are all very closely linked to the climate.The most vulnerable sectors are identified as agriculture, livestock, woodlands,forests, water and health while the sectors emitting most greenhouse gas emissions in Botswana are agriculture, energy industry, waste as well as land use and forestry” Mmolotsi said

Knowledge on how to reduce emissions of green house gasses, especially methane are currently limited but could include reducing livestock number, feed conversion or livestock methane vaccine, the Mp explained.

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