Member States of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin commit to working together to ensure respect for environmental principles
The Board of Commissioners of the Okavango River Basin Standing Water Commission (www.OKACOM.org) (bit.ly/3B5c3mo) representing the riparian states of Angola, Botswana and Namibia recently met to discuss the oil and gas exploration activities of Canadian company ReconAfrica. , in the transboundary basin of the Cubango-Okavango river (CORB) which is shared by the three countries. Mandated by the three Member States to advise on the conservation, development and sustainable use of water resources in the CORB, OKACOM hosted the council meeting specifically to discuss exploration activities based in northeastern Namibia and northwestern Botswana to determine the presence of oil and gas. ReconAfrica’s activities have not only raised national and regional concerns, but also attracted international attention with fears of negative environmental impact on the basin, both in the short and long term. Media reports highlighted the concern of potentially affected stakeholders such as communities living in the basin.
First, the Commission recognizes the legitimacy of the oil exploration license PEL073 and PEL001 issued to ReconAfrica by the competent authorities of Namibia and Botswana respectively, both of which are at different stages. Both governments, through the ministries responsible for mining and energy, have issued official statements indicating that exploration activities are proceeding well within environmentally friendly limits and causing no damage to the basin. In advising Member States on matters affecting the environmental integrity of the basin, the Commission should ensure that this status is maintained by Member States individually and jointly by adhering to the key principles agreed with regard to any major development in the basin. , including these exploration activities.
A shared vision for the CORB
the CORB is recognized internationally for its significantly high biological productivity and iconic biodiversity, making it one of the most important biodiversity conservation areas in the world. Therefore, its status as a Wetland of International Importance (a Ramsar Site) and a 1000th World Heritage Site under the UNESCO Convention. In light of this, the Commission reaffirmed its commitment to uphold a shared vision for the basin which stipulates that all efforts will be made to achieve “economically prosperous, socially just and ecologically sound development of the Cubango-Okavango river basin. “.
Adherence to environmental impact assessment processes
Member States have indicated that a key objective and commitment is to ensure that current and proposed exploration activities are carried out outside the core and buffer zones of the demarcated protected conservation areas, as provided for in their respective environmental laws. , and ReconAfrica shall comply with those indicated in their project plans.
This should be applied by the respective ministries responsible for water and environment, and in addition Member States will make an effort to ensure that their respective environmental impact assessment (EIA), laws and approaches are harmonized and synchronized to ensure comparability of results. The Council agreed that an approved agreement EIA the report should precede any subsequent stage of exploration work and if it is found at any stage that there is a significant threat to the integrity of the basin and local communities, the process should be duly suspended.
Notification, consultation and negotiation on the measures planned in the basin
Closely related to the obligation to prevent “significant damage” is the process of notifying, consulting and negotiating (bit.ly/36D3TDL) by riparian states regarding planned measures that could cause transboundary impacts. In light of the on-going exploratory activities, the prevention of “significant damage” and “significant negative effects” for co-riparian states has become a key management objective between the three Member States. The basic principle requiring that states not allow significant damage to be caused to other riparian states is spelled out in international conventions, customary international law, national legal regulations and / or country cooperation agreements. sharing river basins. Thus, each Member State concerned should prepare and submit the relevant information and notifications to the other Member States of the basin as soon as possible, in accordance with previous legislation and guidelines. In addition, the ministers concerned should be involved and adequately informed and advised on the state of these initiatives so that they can take the necessary decisions if necessary and guide the process.
The Commission duly agreed that consultation, participation and subsequent agreement of stakeholders should be a prerequisite for any other work related to oil and gas exploration in the basin. All Member States will ensure that this is fully implemented at all stages of the process through the relevant ministries. Stakeholder consultation is essential to safeguard the participation and involvement of communities and other affected parties in the basin and should be documented and carried out in a transparent manner.
The Commission is committed to ensuring that the gains made by the basin during the more than 25 years of tripartite existence are not canceled out by activities that could negatively affect the well-being of the basin and its communities. As an advisory body to the three Member States, OKACOM not only commits to ensuring a full follow-up of the process, but will act by convening the necessary meetings and platforms for discussion and information sharing of Member States.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of OKACOM.
The Office of the Executive Secretary
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The Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) is a river basin organization, established by the governments of Angola, Botswana and Namibia under the 1994 Agreement, with a mandate to advise the three member states on conservation, development and sustainable use of water resources in the Cubango-Okavango river basin. The Council of Commissioners is the main body of OKACOM composed of representatives of each Member State, responsible for defining and guiding the development of the policy and the general supervision of the activities of OKACOM.
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