Botswana Seeks to Hasten $1.6 Billion Zambezi River Pipeline

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Botswana intends to accelerate construction of a pipeline carrying water from the Zambezi river to the country’s parched south so that the project is completed within seven years rather than the current projection for 2030.

The government is reviewing its original designs for the 16 billion pula ($1.6 billion) project, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kgomotso Abi told lawmakers Thursday in the capital, Gaborone.

“There has been a rethinking of the initial idea, looking at the drying up of Gaborone Dam and other sources,” Abi said. “This is a priority and we must bring that water all the way down to the south.”

Botswana has been hit by water rationing that’s caused seven-hour supply cuts in the capital and surrounding areas on about a three days a week. The Gaborone Dam was about 2 percent full on May 22, according to the Water Utilities Corp. The central bank on May 25 cited water shortages as one of the threats to the country’s economic growth this year, together with electricity.

In 2009, Botswana submitted a formal request to the Southern African Development Community to draw 495 million cubic meters of water a year from the Zambezi. Initially, Botswana intended to use the water for a commercial agriculture project in the north-west. The water shortage in the south has forced to re-prioritize its plans, Kgomotso said.

“We are working on the terms of reference for consultants who will help review the original designs for the project,” Abi said. “It could be a seven-year project, but we have to somehow make it faster because we don’t have the luxury of time.”

— With assistance by Mbongeni Mguni

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