WWF Zambia observes that climate change impacts have continued to negatively affect the country’s economic performance and pose significant risks to the attainment of the country's Sustainable Development Goals if not addressed.
The impacts of climate change have over the years been seen through declining productivity trends in the agriculture sector particularly amongst small holder farmers arising from not just rainfall pattern variability but also increases in temperatures that are causing crop failure. In addition, owing to the impacts of climate change, the country has experienced insecurities in water availability in the Zambezi River basin. These risks are as a result of variations in rainfall patterns over the years that have manifested through both droughts and floods affecting water levels and availability in the country.
These variations have created very significant challenges for the country in the context of planning, water allocation and meeting its dire energy needs, consequently load shedding has become a norm instead of an exception. Due to the insecurities caused by the unpredictability of water availability, there is need for the country to enhance the management of these water resources by improving its projections of flows to avoid plunging the country into a water crisis and making the existing energy challenges worse.
WWF Zambia notes that currently the Zambezi River basin has recorded more water volumes upstream this year when compared to previous years due to increased rainfall (to be validated by the Zambezi River Authority). However, this does not translate into instant filling of dams that produce power. Nonetheless, given this current improvement in water flows upstream of the river basin upstream when compared to last year (2019) (Chavuma) and these flows will need to be safeguarded and maintained by ensuring that we implement and strengthen water resource management that will proactive enable clear water allocation to various competing sectors that require water that includes but not limited to: energy, agriculture, sanitation and industry. The plans and decision making should safeguard water needs of users both upstream and downstream.
WWF is of the understanding that water plays a key role in driving our economy and our national development agenda. Consequently, WWF Zambia is of the firm belief that the insecurities of water availability that the country has been facing have directly contributed to the multiple challenges the country has been facing ranging from food prices increases, energy crisis, reductions in agriculture productivity and recurrent WASH related disease outbreaks which poses a significant threat to public health. Because of the urgency in this context, WWF Zambia appeals to government to prioritize the protection of critical water sources and in particular the Zambezi River basin to address the current insecurities around water availability. Increased water insecurity in the Zambezi basin by a few degrees would be a source of social and political instability and must be avoided at all costs. Given the critical role fresh water resources play in driving the economy from farming, fishing, tourism, energy production and industry, we urge government to take actions that will ensure water conservation is placed at the heart and center of Zambia’s socio-economic recovery and development path .Our ability as to respond effectively to the current multiple crises the country is facing requires that we elevate the economic and social value of our fresh water resources as a country in a way we have not done before. Water supply for energy, food and health purposes will not be guaranteed without urgent and bold investments to protect and conserve critical water resources. Even in the face of COVID19, guaranteed water supply is one of the crucial strategies to curb the lethal pandemics spread in Zambia.
Whilst we commend the Republican President for having given a clear direction to all responsible government ministries and institutions to quickly act to enhance water source protection late last year, WWF Zambia remains concerned that the process of actualizing those protections has remained slow and lacks a clear budgetary support mechanism to fast track this. Given the above WWF Zambia makes a call around the following:
1. Prioritize and make water conservation and effective management of water resources the number one government priority. This will require expediting all national processes to protect critical water sources in the Zambezi basis that are currently under threat.
2. We also call on the business sector including the mining companies to join hands with actors like WWF and other like-minded organizations and Government to address the water risks the country faces. This will be through innovative solutions and mechanisms in various river basins that will protect and conserve water and thereby guarantee affordable and reliable supply of energy and food, both which are key in controlling inflation.
3. Ensure greater accountability and oversight on water management is applied with a key focus on ensuring that there is readily available data and information of current and projected water flows in the Zambezi river basin that will support fast and prudent decision making to reduce the increasing risks on insecurities around water availability
4. There is need to ensure that environmental flows are protected and clear prescriptions on water allocations for users determined and planned around in the wake of current insecurities
5. Expedite the declaration water resource protected areas as targeted in the national development plan and the strategic plan – MWDSEP.
6. Enhance Energy planning in the wake of water availability insecurities.