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Okavango facts

Angola, Botswana and Namibia have all ratified the UN framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the SADC Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses; Namibia and Botswana have both ratified the RAMSAR treaty.

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Mr Piet Heyns

Mr Piet Heyns

Pieter Stephanus van Heerden Heyns was born in Kimberley, South Africa in 1947 to Chris Heyns, an economist, and Magdalena van Heerden. He attended primary and secondary school in Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosh. He completed military training in the South African Air Force in 1966. In 1967 he entered the Stellenbosch University to study civil engineering. He graduated with a BSc BIng in 1973 and began working with the South African Department of Water Affairs as Assistant Engineer in Jonkershoek in the Western Cape. He worked on several water schemes in the Western Cape before requesting a transfer to Windhoek in South West Africa (Namibia) in 1976. He had married Annalize Ferreira in 1975.

... he was instrumental in organizing a meeting of the two existing transboundary water commissions respectively, between Namibia and Angola and Namibia and Botswana, to discuss how Angola, Botswana and Namibia could jointly cooperate in the development of the water resources of the Okavango River.


He worked in the Planning Division of the Department of Water Affairs, responsible for the investigation and planning of water supply schemes in remote areas. He registered as a Professional Engineer in 1978 and moved up the ranks to the Operations Division, placed in charge of all major water supply schemes in Namibia – the Cuvelai Basin, the central Namib, the Hardap Irrigation Scheme, the Naute Irrigation Scheme and the Eastern National Water Carrier. In this capacity, he organized a visit to Namibia by senior staff of Botswana’s Department of Water Affairs to discuss progress with the development of the Eastern National Water Carrier Scheme, and this visit was reciprocated in 1988 with a visit of Namibian water affairs officials to Botswana. In 1987 he became the Director of Investigations and Research in charge of the Divisions of Water Environment, Hydrology, Geohydrology, Water Law Administration and the Planning in the Department. After Namibia became independent in 1990, he and his wife chose to become Namibian citizens.

In 1991, prompted by the issue of access to the waters of the Okavango River System for importation to central Namibia, he was instrumental in organizing a meeting of the two existing transboundary water commissions respectively, between Namibia and Angola and Namibia and Botswana, to discuss how Angola, Botswana and Namibia could jointly cooperate in the development of the water resources of the Okavango River. In 1992 he was tasked to draw up the draft agreement to establish the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM). He served as Commissioner representing Namibia from the establishment of OKACOM in 1994 to his retirement as Head of Department of Water Affairs and Forestry in 2007.

He and his wife Annalize have three children: Riza, Pieter and Lucinda. See his LinkedIn profile.

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