Written by Boaventura Mandlate
Translated by Francisco Chuquela
Globally, the issue of water shortages in the SADC region isn’t yet so widespread, but there are some areas of scarcity that are likely to worsen. These foci include South Africa, which has some areas with acute water shortages along the Limpopo and Incomati basins shared with Mozambique. They are rivers that register a lot of demand on the side of South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Mozambique.
It follows the Botswana-Namibia belt, also with outbreaks of water shortages. The projections point to the exacerbation of this scarcity, on the one hand, due to the population growth and on the other due to the economic development of the SADC member states, with the expansion of the irrigation areas. On the whole, SADC hasn’t yet faced water shortages, but there are niches that lack a challenge for the future of the region.
Mozambique shares nine of the 15 rivers in the SADC region: Maputo, Umbeluzi, Incomati, Limpopo, Save, Búzi, Pungué, Zambezi and Rovuma. More than half of our country’s surface water resources are also generated in upstream countries.
In times of excessive rainfall, the countries in the amount release the waters, to safeguard the integrity of their infrastructures, like dams and to avoid calamities. This is likely to trigger floods in Mozambique, where most of the rivers in the region flow. In periods of water shortages, the countries of the amount retain little water, drying our watersheds.
The Zambezi River is shared by a total of eight countries, namely the Democratic Republic of Congo, the nascent country, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, where it has its mouth.
International experience shows that the water shortage resulting from the demand in rivers shared by several countries has been the origin of conflicts of great magnitude.
To prevent this experience from transferring to the region, SADC has been involved in collaborative cooperation initiatives in search of a facilitating environment among member states.
The ultimate objective is to achieve a permanent dialogue, in a scenario of scarcity, which promises to worsen in 3-4 decades. This dialogue must take place in an atmosphere of trust and mutual benefit.
The absence of conflict so far is the indicator that the legal framework of the region, the various bilateral or joint forums are working and is being tried at all basins level, is up to the challenge at the moment.
For many times the region was “surprised” by episodes, particularly floods, which in a scenario of lack of communication could lead to disastrous consequences.
SADC is in the process of socioeconomic development that requires a lot of water. This will increase the pressure on the demand for this resource, aggravating the scenario of some shortages that some member countries already have.
What is most important at this stage is the deepening of cooperation relations, so that member countries can jointly face the challenges of climate change, economic development and competition between the countries of the region around the same water. Individually you don’t get anywhere. These are challenges that must be tackled together.
The picture of water scarcity in the next decades in the SADC region is drawing at a time when enormous waste of water is being experienced every day. Consumption and management waste, resulting in major leakages due to deficiency in the plumbing systems. Do all SADC citizens (more than 200 million) have a sense of the challenge of water resources for the future of the region?
Water is a finite resource, a reality about which many people have no concept. More than 50 percent of the water going through Mozambique depends on the countries of the amount. The fact that we are already talking about water stress in the region determines that the Mozambican water managers who work here will work with the various users to sensitize them about the scenario that is desired for the future.
They have a right and a duty to know that the country is faced with a finite resource that may be even scarcer, and that Mozambique has increased obligations to the region. There needs to be this linkage on the challenges that are posed in the area of water resources and what can be done to ensure that this water isn’t lacking. This has to do with the whole course of water distribution. The work is part of SADC, but countries at the national level should disseminate and monitor it. Mozambique cant be an exception.
Today we are seeing an increasingly active SDAC in relation to this shared water resource, influenced by several factors, from the perspective of dealing with the future that doesn’t promise to be easy.
Water that in times of excessive rainfall causes floods, deaths and destruction of infrastructure and agricultural fields, lost by the sea in, represents a valuable resource meanwhile wasted by lack of storage capacity. This capacity involves the construction of dams at the height of the identified potential, which would represent an added value for irrigation of the agricultural fields in times of rainfall.
The region is known for its water storage capacity created by South Africa, which allows the neighboring country to irrigate agricultural fields for a full year.
This capacity was created through a large investment that Mozambique is still far from being able to realize, given its weak economy. (x)