The Okavango Delta case study is one of four pilot efforts across Africa trying to integrate information about freshwater biodiversity into the development planning process. The Okavango Delta in Botswana is a site of global importance for biological conservation and diversity. It forms one of the world’s largest Wetlands of International Importance, as designated under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
The Delta depends on the water inflow from Namibia and Angola. Increased upstream water abstraction and pollution form the major threats from these countries. Local uses (agriculture, fishing, resource collection and use) could alter the resource base and biodiversity due to growing commercial and subsistence use of the Delta and its resources. The Government of Botswana, through the Department of Environmental Affairs, has expressed concern about the depletion of some veld products, overgrazing and land degradation and the environmental impacts of the growing number of tourists. If these threats are not addressed, they will have a profound impact on the freshwater biodiversity. Specific changes are likely to directly affect local communities that are heavily dependent on the Delta for their livelihoods, including consumptive and non-consumptive tourism.
What has been done?
The Okavango Delta case study used the mechanisms of a long-term water quality monitoring programme and an outreach book for stakeholders and decision-makers. A freshwater biodiversity baseline was established to be monitored through an index of biological integrity that is being piloted and will yield management-oriented information for years to come. The visually appealing book highlighting freshwater species and issues will reach decision-makers rapidly and serve to pilot a reporting tool for communication about the status of freshwater biodiversity and wetland health. The Okavango case was unique in being preventative – addressing largely perceived rather than actual threats to the Delta.