Water woes in ever-changing environment

19 May, 2022 - 00:05 0 Views
Water woes in ever-changing environment By virtue that the African economy is agriculture-based, one can understand the dilemma the continent finds itself in, when it becomes apparent that it is faced with possible water shortages.

The Herald

Ruth Butaumocho-African Agenda

Droughts are increasingly becoming the norm in Africa. As a result, water has become an important resource that the continent is now battling to conserve in whatever form.

By virtue that the African economy is agriculture-based, one can understand the dilemma the continent finds itself in, when it becomes apparent that it is faced with possible water shortages.

A recent report from the World Food Programme revealed that 7,2 million Ethiopians and half a million Kenyans are just a step away from catastrophic levels of hunger and malnutrition because of droughts that have been incessantly hitting these parts of Africa in recent years.

Other countries such as Somalia have lost 30 percent of their livestock herds owing to the disturbing droughts. 

A situation closer home is of South Africa, where floods ravaged some areas leaving more than 400 people dead, cattle and crops destroyed, as climate change rears its ugly head.

Even outside the effects of climate change, the growing young population in Africa, high demand for water usage in both rural and urban areas, is a development that needs urgent attention to ensure that the continent does not dry up.

Africa should now be looking for long term solutions in harnessing and preserving water across the continent and beyond.

What makes the situation sad and unfortunate is that the eminent shortage, which has been a subject of debate for years, has not been given due attention it deserves.

This is not because of its lack of severity of thereof, but probably because of lack of knowledge and the assumption that the resource is infinite and will never run out!

The water shortage could happen much faster than what the white-bearded professors could have predicted for years.

What is even scarier is the whimsical approach member countries are taking on such a delicate issue. 

Water shortage will not only affect lives of billions across the continent, but could turn out to be fatal if no urgent and long term solutions are found to ameliorate the challenge.

Though Africa is divided by political boundaries, it remains a cohort, affected or inspired by the same challenges or inspirations.

At this juncture a possible water crisis in the region calls for all to find a long term solution, without leaving anyone or any place behind, as President Mnangagwa would rightly put it.

Such a decision, needs unity of purpose, political will and pooling resources together even at regional level to ensure that at the end of the day, the benefits cascade across the continent, averting an otherwise catastrophic situation.

 The construction of the Kazungula Dam is a clear example of how unity of purpose, driven by a sense of servitude can bring out in the best for the good of people.

It is for that reason that Africa needs to be driven by the same vision to work on big projects such as the construction of water pipeline projects to harness water for use across.

There may be scope for African leaders to borrow the European precedent of connecting navigable rivers to develop an inland, water pipeline that can benefit several African countries that are strategically located together or probably share same water-sources.

Take for instance the Nile River, water source which has been navigable since the time of the Pharaohs some 4 000 years ago. In the Nile River are sections of the Niger, Benue and Congo Rivers. 

Boats today carry passengers and freight across Lake Malawi, Lake Victoria and Lake Tanzania while riverboats even provide essential services along sections of the Niger, Benue, Congo and Nile Rivers. 

A similar concept could actually be developed along, the Zambezi River, which is one of Southern Africa’s trans-boundary major water sources. 

The basin covers some 1,3 million square kilometres spread over eight countries, Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana, Tanzania, and Namibia.

The mere investment of a water-pipeline running across these basins, would be one of African’s major feats outside the launch and the subsequent operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Many would want to argue that building such a canal would not be feasible and would costs as much and might result in wasted resources that are best used to construct smaller water sources.

Worse still, many would even want to push forward the Realist Theory, which says that each country is ultimately dependent on their own capabilities, or power, to further their national interests, so building a water canal is immediately ruled out.

That probably explains why water sharing between countries with different approaches to water use and policy making have often been a source of conflict over the years.

Examples are too numerous to mention of countries that went to war after disagreeing on the usage of a shared water source, with some intending to use it for aquifers while others wanted to power major hydro-projects.

The mere management of trans-boundary rivers is a source of consternation.

 It involves engineering, environmental, legal, social, economic, and political factors that may not be easily resolved at one go and may even take years.

Just the mere usage of water alone, on how much each country will draw from the source can even blow in heated conflicts that may take years to resolve.

However, having looked at the challenges that countries may encounter and that may result in serious fallouts, it is important to look at the substantial benefits that may be realised which naturally outweigh challenges.

It is when such situations arise, that state leaders would need to come up with strategic decision making to gain the most benefits for all the parties involved.

A lot of economic benefits can be derived from sharing water from the same sources, which among other remunerations include the reduced cost in water procurement, sharing of infrastructure and the possibility of co-operating on projects, here countries can mutually benefit from.

In spirit of Ubuntu, which is the true mark of African humanity, there can never be a better way of strengthening brotherly bond than sharing a cup of water.

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