Okavango facts

It is the only exploitable perennial river that flows through the territories of both Namibia and Botswana.

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The Namibia Basin

The Namibian Basin

The Economy

In the Namibian part of the basin there are about 219,090 people, amounting to some 10.5 percent of the national population. Most of these people (94 percent) live within five km of the river and about 20 percent of them are urban, living in Rundu. The urbanization rate in the Namibian part of the basin is lower than that for the whole country, although the population density is much higher than the national average. This reflects the fact that most of the population is concentrated along the narrow active basin – the river. The population growth rate in the Namibian basin has been very high – up to 7 percent per annum between 1981 and 1991. This is partly the result of natural increase, but there was significant immigration from Angola during the war, for security and economic reasons. The situation has since stabilized and the current and future population growth is expected to remain slightly higher than that for the nation as a whole, i.e. at a rate of 1.5 percent.

Namibia has the most diversified economy of the three countries. Trade, transport, manufacturing and mining all contribute around 10 percent of the GDP (Table 4.4). Agriculture and forestry contribute 6.6 percent or US$491 million. Farming itself is fairly limited owing to climate and soils, but large areas in communal conservancies or private lands are devoted to livestock and game ranching/wildlife. Tourism is also a significant factor in the economy, earning 2 percent or US$139 million. A portion of this tourism comes from the Cubango-Okavango region, although the bulk of it is associated with Etosha National Park, the coast and the dunes. Water and electricity contribute an additional US$99 million, or on average US$50/annum per capita.

Namibia’s development visions are contained in Vision 2030, which deals extensively with all aspects of the environment, including water, land use and biodiversity. Strict pollution control is a guiding principle underlying all of the above through its policy of integrated water resources management. Vision 2030 is complemented by the National Development Plan 3, a detailed planning document with an overall theme of accelerated economic growth through extensive rural development. Productive and sustainable utilization of natural resources and environmental conservation are its key goals.


Namibia's 1956 Water Act (still applicable) was due to be replaced by the Water Resources Management Act (2004) but a further revision of the 2004 Act is currently ongoing. Meanwhile, Namibia has already started implementing significant elements of the new Act, among others the progressive establishment of basin management committees, in which context the Okavango Basin Management Committee was established in 2008. Namibia is also in the process of developing a national IWRM plan.

The Namibia Water Corporation Act of 1997 aims to provide bulk water supply to customers. It also provides for the secondary business of delivering water-related services, supplying facilities and granting rights to customers upon their request. The Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Policy of 2008, following on from the 1993 Water Supply and Sanitation Policy (WASP) and 2000 Namibia Water Resources Policy, aims to improve the provision of water supply.

Namibia's National Land Policy (1998) and the Draft National Land Tenure Policy (2005) both acknowledge the environmental limitations  on land use and seek to ensure sustainability through improved resources use and land management. Neither has led to the enactment of legislation to date, although such principles Foot and Mouth Disease Control point, Botswana, 2008  are broadly covered under the Environmental Management Act and the Communal Land Reform Act (2005). Namibia has developed a National Strategy to Combat Desertification under the UNCCD. Of particular relevance to the Cubango-Okavango Basin is a regional land-use plan for the Kavango Region, which was completed in the second half of 2010.

The floods of 2009–2010 in the Kavango catchment in Namibia were exceptional and seriously affected many people. They were caused by a combination of above normal rainfall in the catchments with high inflows of flood waters from southern Angola.

Namibia has several policies impacting on biodiversity protection in the country, which are predominantly agricultural in nature. The National Agricultural Policy (1995) and the National Drought Policy (1997), which make provision for drought management procedures in order to reduce long-term vulnerability to drought, are both underscored by sustainable land and resources use. More specifically, biodiversity protection is an integral part of the Wildlife Policy for Communal Areas (1995) and the Draft Tourism Policy (2007), both of which emphasize sustainable biodiversity use through community-based natural resources management (CBNRM). Like Angola and Botswana, Namibia has also developed a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan under the UNCBD, covering the period 2001–2010.

Use of the River

In Namibia, there are larger areas of floodplains and a fair amount of tourism development that allows households in the basin to derive about 32 percent of their income from river/wetland resources. The floodplains provide some income from wetland crop production, where better soil and moisture conditions enhance crop production in small-scale gardens. Namibian households graze livestock on the floodplain for part of the year. Livestock productivity is increased by better water availability and the specific grassland communities that grow on the floodplains. In both cases the higher values of crops and livestock are directly due to the river and its wetlands.The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources operates three community-based fish farms at Nkurenkuru, Kangongo and Kaisosi, which account for about 4 percent of the water abstraction in Namibia.

Proposed uses of resources in the Namibian portion of the Basin inlcuded a hydrolelectric power installation at Popa Falls, where the river drops a few metres, is the only feasible location for hydroelectricity generation. The feasibility of three alternative run-of-river sites associated with this location was considered in 2003 in an attempt to preserve the falls themselves because of their high tourism value. However, the proponent, NamPower has shelved
the proposal, because of operational constraints, and at present there are no plans to build the Popa Falls Hydropower Scheme.

There is a proposal for transferring water from the Kavango River through the Eastern National Water Carrier that links the river with the Grootfontein-Omatako Canal to supply water to the central area of Namibia. The demand from this scheme is initially low at 17 Mm3/annum, although the demand could rise to 100 Mm3/annum; this is still relatively insignificant, especially as a portion of this water would be used within the Cubango-Okavango Basin itself.

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