By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is aiming to increase water access levels to at least 75% by 2027 for both safe drinking and sanitation.
SADC also wants to increase the annual renewable water storage resources from the current 14% to about 25% during the same period.
Water in the southern African region is becoming scarce, and aggravated by El Nino drought – the worst in 35 years, which riveted the region in recent years – the escalating situation can no longer be ignored.
Within the region, there are 15 shared river basins but are not fully functional. Only six of the 15 basins have been fully established or in the process of being established. These are the Orange, Zambezi, Limpopo, Okavango, Incomati-Maputo and the Kunene-Cuvelai River Basins.
The rest is yet to be developed because of lack of funding.
In May this year, officials from SADC countries convened in Windhoek, Namibia, where they formulated a strategy meant to secure funding to develop regional water resources.
According to the SADC Secretariat, only 60% of the 292 million people in the region have access to safe drinking water.
According to the information emanated from the SADC council of ministers meeting and seen by The Southern Times, over 70% of the 292 million people living in the region rely on the groundwater as the primary source of water.
Agriculture, the main economic activity in the SADC region, draws an estimated 20% of its water resources needs also from underground.
If this abstraction is not properly monitored and adequately managed it can lead to over-abstraction and pollution of the resource, warns the council of ministers.
The Southern Times understands that the region has been struggling to attract private sector financing due to water being a social and economic good.
As an alternative, the council of ministers has asked for speedy implementation of the Water Chapter of the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan and other supporting strategies to increase the access levels to at least by 75% in the year 2027.
This will also try to increase land under irrigation from the current 7% of the irrigable land to at least 20%.
More vibrant strategies are also required to promote the sector projects and to get the private sector more interested in water infrastructure financing.
SADC Director for Infrastructure and Services: Water Division, Phera Ramoeli, said despite being assessed, documented and understood, the benefits of transboundary water cooperation have not been communicated well in the region.
“Empirical evidence to support the extensive existing literature on the benefits derived from transboundary water cooperation is still lacking. There is a need, therefore, to take further steps of ensuring that the benefits are not only understood but are also realised within the region,” he said.