Water security in Botswana

Photo credit: UN News Centre

View of plains in Botswana. Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Drought in Botswana is learning opportunity to achieve water security – UN rights expert

A United Nations human rights expert today urged Botswana to take the current extreme drought in the southern African country as an opportunity to develop a strategy for providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all as “a short-cut to prevent illnesses and deaths” in the long run.

“The current drought should not be considered as a sporadic event, but rather as a driver for acquiring water security as a national priority,” said Léo Heller, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to safe drinking water and sanitation at the end of a nine-day official visit to Botswana.

“A strategic and participatory process, oriented to the provision of water and sanitation for all, will be a short-cut to prevent illnesses and deaths related to water-borne diseases and economic losses,” Mr. Heller said.

Botswana has been going through one of the worst droughts in its history with a significant part of the population facing a severe water shortage.

“Such a measure hits the poor and the vulnerable hardest,” Mr. Heller said, noting that the situation raises serious human rights concerns of water quality, water quantity and related health impacts.

“As water stress in Botswana is predicted to get higher and higher due to the impact of climate change and increasing water demand, the Government must establish measures in order to prevent severe environmental situations from translating into water shortage, affecting people’s standard of living,” he said, adding that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is one of the most important obligations of the human rights framework.

Mr. Heller said he “found an alarming level of highly precarious water supply in these villages – in some cases with no public provision at all” and in some cases with the bush as the only solution to most of the people’s physiological needs.

“I was surprised by still a common practice of open defecation in villages,” he noted.

Read the full article: UN News Centre


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Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.