Water Resource Management in Botswana: Balancing Sustainability and Economic Development*

Authors: Rahm, Dianne; Swatuk, Larry; Matheny, Erica

Source: Environment, Development and Sustainability, Volume 8, Number 1, February 2006 , pp. 157-183(27)

Publisher: Springer

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Botswana is a rapidly developing country in southern Africa. Over the last three decades, diamond mining and tourism have provided double-digit rates of economic growth. Yet most of Botswana’s land is in the Kalahari desert where the climate is subject to sustained periods of severe drought. In this environment, water resources are the most crucial of all environmental resources. Water use directly affects economic development because water utilization impacts all the major national economic sectors. A sustainable water use resource management plan must stretch several decades into the future to assure the availability of adequate supplies of water to future generations while not compromising the ability of the current generation to reasonable rates of economic development. Yet thinking about sustainability is present in Botswana water policy mostly only in rhetoric. A series of cultural traditions and political constraints, coupled with bureaucratic managerial weaknesses, serve to maintain a system of water allocation that is unsustainable in the long run and inefficient in the short-term. Unless sustainable water use patterns are adopted, the results for the short-term, as well as the long-term, will be devastating. Drawing on data obtained through a series of interviews with government officials, leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and water resource researchers, this paper explores water policy in Botswana within the larger context of sustainable natural resource management practice and the pressures of economic development.

Keywords: agriculture; economic development; mining; natural resource management; sustainability; sustainable development; tourism; water policy; wildlife

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10668-005-2491-6

Affiliations: Email: drahm@utsa.edu

Publication date: February 1, 2006

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