October 14, 2002

Zimbabwe, Mozambique Set to Launch Joint Water Commission

Zimbabwe and Mozambique will soon establish a joint water commission to advise the two countries on conservation, development and use of shared water resources. The two countries are expected to sign the agreement in November after the Zimbabwean Government approved proposals to establish the commission. The commission would advise the governments of the two countries on use of shared water sources such as the Pungwe, Buzi and Save rivers.

A few years ago, the Zimbabwean Government rejected to establish such a commission because Mozambique had not yet ratified the SADC protocol on shared water systems, which was signed in 1995. Maputo has now ratified the protocol and the Government has approved a proposal by the Minister of Rural Resources and Water Development Cde Joyce Mujuru to sign the agreement.

The commission will consist of not more than three members from each country and will meet at least once a year. All decisions of the commission will be taken on the basis of consensus between the delegations. In the event the commission fails to reach consensus, the matter under discussion will be referred to the two governments for further negotiations.

In a separate development, the director of Mozambique's Zambezi Valley Planning Office, Sergio Vieira, has called for joint planning of the use of southern Africa's water resources to avoid any conflict between states over access to water.

Speaking at a meeting on the management of the water resources of the Zambezi, which began in Maputo on Monday, October 14, Vieira said "We must plan together how to use this resource to the benefit of our peoples, and ensure that it never becomes a source of tension and conflict between states". Vieira warned that current forecasts indicate that by 2020 several counties in southern Africa will face critical water shortages.

The Zambezi valley contains the largest reserves of fresh water in the region, particularly since Lake Niassa is considered as forming part of the Zambezi basin. The Zambezi basin can also be the source of the major reserve of clean, renewable and sustainable energy in the region, Vieira added. He believed that water and hydropower could become uniting rather than dividing factors. Noting that the European Union was originally built on the common interest of western European countries in coal and steel, he suggested that the key cornerstones for SADC (Southern African Development Community) would be water and energy. Vieira also stressed the potential agricultural riches of the Zambezi valley. He said that southern Africa currently imports about 300 million US dollars worth of rice every year - yet the Zambezi Valley would be able to meet in full the region's rice requirements.

It also possessed excellent conditions for sugar, and could export sugar to Europe and the Middle East - once the European governments had decided to stop subsidising European beet sugar. In Mozambique, the Zambezi Valley occupies an area of 225,000 square kilometres, or 27.7 per cent of the country's total surface area. It is home to 3.755 million people, or about 25 per cent of the Mozambican population. Vieira noted that, despite the natural resources of the Zambezi Valley, this area has an extremely low human development index. In other words, the area is potentially rich, but the people living in it are extremely poor. This meeting follows discussions that began in April, seeking an agreement between all the countries of the Zambezi basin to set up a Management Commission for the Zambezi Water Resources (ZAMCOM). Mozambique is involved in similar negotiations concerning management commissions for other shared river basins, notably the Limpopo. (THE HERALD, AIM)

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