Friday, 31 May 2013
Major Project Maps Change in Zambezi Basin
A major report has been published (available online here) looking at landuse and wider environmental change across the Zambezi River catchment, and highlights the many pressures facing the environmental integrity of the region.
The Zambezi River Basin Atlas of the Changing Environment looks at climate and human pressures on natural resources across the river basin, which encompasses part of eight countries — Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Atlas uses satellite images, high resolution photographs, illustrative text and graphics to investigate various issues in the Zambezi basin, from use of water and other natural resources, as well as socio-economic and cultural aspects, and identifies climate change and population growth as major drivers of environmental change.
Satellite images show that the basin has undergone major environmental changes in the past 20 years. These include land degradation, loss of forests, expansion of urban and mining areas as well as the spread of alien plant species. According to the Atlas, the population of the basin in 1998 was 31.7 million compared to an estimated 40 million in 2008, with 7.5 million people living in urban centres.
Most countries in the basin are urbanizing rapidly, putting pressure on finite resources. The Atlas illustrates the deforestation of large areas surrounding Lilongwe in Malawi, among others, due to the high demand for firewood and land for farming by the growing population.
Mining is a major economic activity in the basin and satellite images reveal striking land-use changes as a result of mining activities, notably in Zambia. The revival of copper mining at Kanshanshi and Lumwana mines in Solwezi in north-western Zambia has led to a population influx, resulting in the rapid but haphazard expansion of the town. As a result, surrounding forested areas have been cleared for firewood and peri-urban farming.
Sub-basins such as the Luangwa River, Lake Kariba, and the Kafue and Kabompo rivers also have high concentrations of mining operations, contributing to water pollution in the Zambezi river. In addition, highly urbanized sub-basins such as the Kafue and Manyame are discharging waste into the Zambezi river system. The use of fertilizers and agrochemicals are contributing to the growth of harmful aquatic plants. Water hyacinth growth is a problem throughout the basin, and areas particularly affected include the Kafue Flats in Zambia, Lower Shire in Malawi, Lake Kariba between Zambia.
Zambezi River Basin Atlas of the Changing Environment, the first of its kind in southern Africa, is a collaborative initiative with the objective of providing scientific evidence about changes that are taking place in the environment. The Atlas is being produced for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Water Division, the Interim Secretariat of the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM), and Zambezi River Basin stakeholders, by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) through its environment institute, the I. Musokotwane Environment Resource Centre for Southern Africa (IMERCSA) and GRID-Arendal, both collaborating centres of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The Atlas is available online to download here.
Original source: ZAMCOM: Changing the Environment in the Zambezi River Basin