Botswana's move to draw water from the Zambezi River without an agreement by all parties to the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) Protocol has sparked a water war with Zimbabwe and other affected countries.
Zimbabwe fears the abstraction of the water from the Zambezi upstream will reduce the downstream flow of the Zambezi affecting the country's premier resort spot - the Victoria Falls and Lake Kariba which generates power for the country.
Details of the dispute which has heated up emerged at a national stakeholders' workshop on the sustainable use of Zimbabwe's wetlands which was held yesterday in the capital.
Participants at the workshop which was organised by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, the Environmental Management Agency and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) heard that Botswana had set up water abstraction works at the confluence of Chobe River and the Zambezi River violating the ZAMCOM Protocol.
The protocol demands that a country should seek the consent of all eight riparian member states (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia and Angola) before it can draw water from the Zambezi River.
"One presenter here said Zimbabwe was not involved in a war over water unlike some countries in the Middle East which once went to war over water, I am afraid that the opposite could be true as a conflict of water is bubbling up," said one senior water expert in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate without naming the country.
"A member of ZAMCOM has taken upon himself to draw water from the Zambezi River without the consent of other parties. The plan by this member will endanger our ecosystem, our wildlife and even the future survival of the Victoria Falls."
"Little did we know that the member state had gone ahead to draw the water despite the fact that Zimbabwe had offered the country to draw water downstream of the Victoria Falls.
"Zimbabwe is preparing itself to go to war over the utilisation of the Zambezi waters!" Media reports indicate that Botswana had for years been considering to negotiate for shared water resources with other riparian states to meet its growing water demands.
The country is said to have pressed ahead with the plan to draw water from the Zambezi after it exhausted all its suitable sites for dam construction.
Botswana has a major water infrastructure that carries water from Letsibogo dam in the northern part of the country to the southern part over a distance of more than 400km to Gaborone. The move to the confluence of the Chobe River and the Zambezi River is an extension of this project.
In an interview with the European Times recently, Botswana's Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Onkokame Kitso Mokaila confirmed his country's plans to tap water from the Zambezi River when asked about how his country sought to ensure adequate supplies of clean water in the coming years.
"We have quite a few dams in northern Botswana but we do not have adequate infrastructure to bring the water to the southern part of the country, so the government has fasttracked development of this infrastructure," he was quoted saying.
"We have negotiated treaties with other countries to tap 495 cubic metres of water from the Zambezi River for agriculture and drinking, and we are in the process of tendering to build the water pipeline."
Environment, Water and Climate Deputy Minister Engineer Simon Musanhu said he was aware of the dispute over the Zambezi waters but did not have full details.
"I do not have the full report as yet but it's about the issue of Botswana drawing water from upstream of the Zambezi for its own use," he said.
"We still don't have much information but we know is that they went ahead to draw water from the Zambezi (allegedly) without the knowledge of other parties.
"It's a sensitive matter and we are still to engage them over the matter."
The dispute has heated up and both sides are said to be engaged in intense discussion to resolve all misunderstandings.
The Zambezi watercourse is of particular importance in the region because it is shared by eight countries with a total population of over 50 million.
Source: Water war bubbling up between Zimbabwe and Botswana - Bulawayo24 (08/08/14)