Thursday, January 22, 2009

A partnership for promoting sustainable liquid waste management systems for the Okavango Delta

The BIOKAVANGO Project, in partnership with the North West District Council and the tourism industry, has launched a liquid waste management study in the Okavango Delta Ramsar Site (ODRS). The study seeks to develop a standard Liquid Waste Management Strategy to guide communities and tourism operations. Aqualogic (Pty) Ltd was contracted to do the work on the 15th of November 2007. The project has two distinct components:

· The assessment of liquid waste treatment/management systems of tourism establishments
· The assessment of transportation, handling and storage of hazardous substances (e.g. fuel, oil)

Tourism operators, government officials, researchers from the University of Botswana’s Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Centre (HOORC) and other stakeholders took the opportunity to interact with the consultant at the inception phase of the project. The primary instrument for data collection is a semi-structured questionnaire covering key variables of water usage, liquid waste management systems, hazardous waste transportation, handling and storage. The questionnaire is being administered to representatives of the tourism establishments (key informants) within the ODRS as listed in the Botswana Tourism Board directory. Information obtained from the questionnaires is cross-checked by field visits to selected establishments, where samples of waste water are collected for chemical analysis at the HOORC environmental chemistry laboratories in Maun.

The National Project Coordinator, Dr Nkobi Moleele, congratulated the tourism operators for their support for the ongoing project, and stressed that it was important to understand that this study was ‘‘not an inspection of any kind”, but a chance to contribute towards better environmental protection/management standards in the ODRS. Since many of the tour operators already employ high standards of environmental management systems, this should be seen as a good opportunity to help conserve the Delta for future generations through contribution towards formulation of liquid waste management strategies aimed at sustaining the ODRS’’.

Proper management of liquid waste is a vital practice for all users of the ODRS, to protect this important and globally unique ecological system. The BIOKAVANGO Project will use the results from the study to develop and demonstrate appropriate, effective and environmental friendly type of liquid waste management for the ODRS.

The study will also assist in the development of guidelines or standards for handling, transportation and storage of hazardous substances in the Delta (specifically fuel and oil).
Although there are no records of negative impacts, a large-scale spillage of hazardous substances could impact very badly on the fragile ecosystem. The study will therefore make recommendations that feed into development of a contingency plan for this type of incidents.

Data access and capturing for this exercise is crucial for reliable outputs by the consultant. Therefore, the HATAB Chairperson, Derek Flatt is encouraging all tourism establishments in the Delta to cooperate and support this initiative by providing the consultant with all the necessary information and any other possible assistance they may seek.

Further information regarding the study can be obtained from the BIOKAVANGO Project, Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Centre, Maun (telephone 6817270 or email

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