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Angola, Botswana and Namibia co-manage shared river system of the Okavango Delta

Tuesday, 4 June 2019
access_time 2 min read
Okavango Delta © Gertrude M. Matswiri | Gertrude M. Matswiri | Image Source: Nomination file

The three countries agree on a roadmap to explore the boundary extension of the Okavango Delta World Heritage site to protect the river basin and the unique wetland system.

The States Parties of Angola, Botswana and Namibia met in Maun in Botswana on 3-4 June 2019 to discuss transboundary cooperation and ways to improve conservation of the Okavango Delta (Botswana) World Heritage site together with UNESCO and other partners. The roadmap adopted foresees the creation of a joint steering committee and a feasibility study on the proposed transnational extension of the World Heritage site.

“This shared river system that transcends boundaries has brought the three States Parties together for its protection. The Cubango-Okavango River Basin is internationally important for its hydrology, biodiversity and biological productivity”, declared Hon. Frans Van Der Westhuizen, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development of Botswana in his opening remarks.

The Okavango Delta depends on the water fed by the Cubango and Cuito Rivers that originate from the Angolan highlands, passing through Namibia on its way to the Delta in Botswana. The local inhabitants call the source waters in Angola as Fonte da Vida, the Source of Life.

“UNESCO is pleased to partner with the Botswana National Museum and Monuments in organizing this meeting. The World Heritage Convention can be a powerful tool to formalize international cooperation over shared heritage resources and promote sustainable development by combining a global standard framework with the development of operational projects and concrete collaboration”, said Mr Guy Debonnet from UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre.

Cubango-Okavango River basin is among the world’s last undisturbed river systems, but faces threats due to development pressure. The Delta is home to indigenous peoples and some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion.

“Enforced protection of the river basin and sustainable development of the region are the Government of Angola’s priorities”, confirmed Mr Rui Lisboa, KAZA Unit Representative of the Ministry of Tourism of Angola.

Ms Veno Kauaria, the Commissioner for Culture from the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture of Namibia recalled: “We believe that having sites inscribed on the World Heritage List is not an end but a means to a whole, which commits the States Parties to the ongoing care to ensure that the sites’ Outstanding Universal Value is protected, conserved and managed for all times.”

The Okavango Delta in Botswana was designated as a Ramsar site in 1996 and as a World Heritage site in 2014 due to its exceptional biodiversity and scenic values. Namibia’s Bwabwata – Okavango became a Ramsar site in 2013 and was included on Namibia’s World Heritage Tentative list in 2016. Angola is currently ratifying the Ramsar Convention and updating its World Heritage Tentative List.

The meeting brought together experts from the three States Parties, regional organisation such as the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) and the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), representatives of local communities and council, Okavango Research Institute and international experts from UNESCO, IUCN, African World Heritage Fund and UNDP.

This meeting was made possible thanks to the generous financial support by the Government of Botswana and the UNESCO/Flanders Funds-in-Trust cooperation of the Government of Flanders (Belgium).