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Operation ‘save rivers’ in the offing

Operation 'save rivers' in the offing
Okavango River

Community trust declares war on weeds to save rivers

Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust (OKMCT) is to embark on a weeding exercise along river channels leading from the Okavango Delta to prolong the life of the rivers.

In an interview this week, the Trust’s general manager, Seikaneng Moepedi stated that they were still in consultation with the Water Department for guidance before they launch the exercise to remove weeds that are causing blockages along river channels and therefore disturbing tourism activities.

Operation 'save rivers' in the offing

Seikaneng Moepedi

“Aquatic weeds especially papyrus (koma) and hippo grass (mojakubu) are problematic because they block passages so it disturbs some of the activities such as boat cruises and fishing. Traditional canoes can meander and pass through narrow passages but it is dangerous to paddle through the thickets,” Seikaneng explained.

These types of aquatic vegetation kill other indigenous plants and life in the river as they form a thick mat over the water.

“They form a green mat on top of the water covering the river and this can kill animals, some drown and fish would not get enough sunlight and oxygen,” Seikaneng explained.

The concentration of weeds according to the Department of Water and Sanitation in Maun is found along Santantadibe River that feeds Thamalakane River and has been there for more than 15 years.

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“The river that covers a distance of approximately 42 kilometres starting from Dxaba to Ditshiping has been experiencing the existence of blockage thus rendering the Santantadibe channel inaccessible and difficult to navigate by boats at some sections,” the department said this week in a report to the North-West District Council.

The report has further revealed that the department received many complaints from various stakeholders regarding the prevalence of thick Salvinia infestations and intermittent river vegetation blockages along Santantadibe river and along Khwai river in Khwai village in October last year.

Together with OKMCT, the department embarked in a physical exercise of removing the infestation that caused blockages upstream Morutsha main hippo pool towards Ditshiping borehole that is near Botswana Defence Force base camp. The purpose was to allow for easy navigation of mokoro activities, the report explained.

If left uncontrolled the vegetation can seriously jeopardise the lives of people whose livelihoods are dependent on the river channels because the flow of the river can be blocked and this kind of unwanted vegetation can cause outbreaks of malaria, the department has stated.

“It can disturb fishing activities and other recreational activities. They also block bridges and that can lead to unnecessary floods in settlements along the Delta,” added Bojanala ward councillor, Luke Motlaleselelo.

Operation 'save rivers' in the offing

Luke Motlaleselelo

Last year, North West District was hit by drought because of low rainfall in Angola that feeds the Okavango Delta through rivers that flow via Zambia and the argument was that even though the water was little, it could have reached Thamalakane River if it was not for the heavy blockages that diverted some of the water along the way.

Thousands of people including polers, tour guides and farmers among others were left high and dry with no activities to do and consequently no household income. Thousands of wildlife and domestic animals were trapped in muddy waters and some killed by hunger and thirst due to the scotching heat wave.

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“We used to travel all the way from Ditshiping to Maun by boat, but it is no longer possible because of the blockages, which were left unattended for close to ten years due to, “insufficient funds” from central government,” added Motlaleselelo who expressed disappointment at the seemingly neglected tourism sites.

Information gathered from the council suggests that on average Water and Sanitation Department was failing to send its workers on the field because it did not have camping equipment and it needed at least around P20 000 to purchase such equipment per month.

Indeed it was reported at the council that since the discovery of the blockages, the department had embarked on physical clearance of vegetation using boats and man power, but they stopped in 2016 due to lack of funds.

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