AGENDA 2063, is the African development narrative and paradigm, aiming to articulate and put forward the concept of the Africa We Want. A number of development agendas are central to Africa’s sustainable development frameworks, but with climate change adaptation guiding and shaping the Africa we want, it is the water sector that is seen as key to lifting communities out of poverty and building resilience.
However, the Africa we want cannot be achieved or realized if the continent does not take care of its river basins, which are now threatened by destructive human activities, which take place in the Okavango Delta, the basin of the Congo, the Zambezi River Basin, the White River and Blue Niles, among others.
These freshwater sources cannot be treated in isolation, but in close connection with adjacent forests and wetlands as supply lines. Rivers play a key role in water supply, distribution and maintenance of ecological systems. Therefore, they must be at the heart of the continent’s climate solutions and nature-based conservation.
The rivers, as the continent’s sources of fresh water, are clothed in magnificent forests, supporting a wide range of biological diversity, flora and fauna, supported by vast ecological and cultural co-benefits. These are in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 6 (drinking water and sanitation), 14 (life below water) and 15 (life on land), all contributing to SDG 13 (climate action).
The Congo River Basin, called the “lungs of the planet”, is one of the world’s vast natural carbon sinks, a prime rainforest and natural habitat, second only to the Amazon Basin. Unfortunately, the Congo River Basin, along the Okavango Delta, the Zambezi River Basin and many other waterways in Africa are under serious threat from endless human activities, both internal and international.
As river basin forests experience massive destruction and deforestation, river flows as sources of fresh water are impacted, while global warming accelerates, leading to long-term climate change.
As these endless atrocities on Africa’s river basins continue, local and international media seem silent while trying to paint a picture of development as fossil fuel discoveries are celebrated with blinding decibels. These river basins have fought natural battles to protect the rivers by giving them their natural hue and ecosystem composition. Elsewhere in Africa, the horrific events unfolding in the Okavango Delta continue to be ignored by local and international media, depriving the world of vital information and knowledge about destructive regimes, disguised as development stories. , taking place in the Okavango Delta and the Zambezi Valley.
How the Congo River Basin, the Okavango Delta, and many other similar operations in Africa’s ecological gems, are being sacrificed for profit, which would not benefit ordinary communities, is surely mind-boggling. The mentioned river basins suffer large scale loss and damage to vast and beautiful forests, fresh water resources, diverse plant and wildlife species and settlements, the continent cannot afford to lose its last natural strongholds.
The fight against climate change cannot be successful and meaningful if little or no special attention is given to the events unfolding in the wonders of Africa. These forests and basins represent Africa’s natural capital, ecological diversity and cultural landscapes that cannot afford to be monetized let alone politicized.
Not only do events unfolding in the Congo River Basin, Okavango Delta, Zambezi Valley and other similar regions on the continent contribute to global warming, but they also contribute to forced resettlement, conflict and human and wildlife trafficking, contamination of freshwater resources and destruction of vital ecosystem services. It also includes human conflict through the funding of armed renegades to destabilize affected regions and create chaos. All of these provide invisible links and ecological interactions, appealing to both global visual attractions and abstract phenomena.
While illegal logging of hardwoods for timber in the Congo River Basin reduces forest cover and releases greenhouse gases from the earth, oil and gas exploration in the Okavango Delta and the Zambezi Valley will affect wildlife movement patterns, human settlements, freshwater quality, through unsmart fracking methods. These are pitfalls and ecological ramifications that must be sufficiently democratized and decolonized to achieve the climate justice we all envision.
While the Congo Basin stands magnificently as the second largest rainforest on the planet, with unparalleled carbon sequestration capacity, its importance should never be ignored. It is also in the Congo Basin that 10% of the world’s freshwater reserves and 52% of Africa’s freshwater reserves are found.
Therefore, this means that the Congo River alone, disregarding other major rivers like the Blue and White Nile, the Zambezi River, among others, can irrigate more than half of the African continent, but unfortunately the continent is always hungry, while fresh water is everywhere. This means that the African continent has never seriously placed freshwater resources at the heart of its sustainable development, which is worrying. This would increase Africa’s potential to feed the world, but out of sheer myopia and glaring shortcomings in planning, Africa continues to wait for the end of the Russian-Ukrainian war to do what it knows best. import.
The reasons behind these conservation cries for the Congo River Basin, the two Niles, the Zambezi River, among others, are to improve food security, biodiversity and ecological diversity. Otherwise, the continued deforestation and degradation of these river basins is accelerating global carbon emissions, reducing the carbon sequestration capacities of these basins, contributing to the drying up of other river tributaries and lakes on the continent. As we speak one of the largest lakes in Africa i.e. Lake Chad is almost gone and the only magic is not in the divine nature but in the enduring adaptations and the water conservation.
Avoiding unsustainable mining practices in these basins would go a long way to preserving freshwater sources by not using dangerous and harmful chemicals that contaminate these water sources, deplete and kill marine species. It is in this context that, to fight against climate change, all strategies aimed at supporting the protection and preservation of ecosystems, including options aimed at strengthening the conservation and safeguarding of biodiversity, must be based.
All of the undesirable human behaviors mentioned above contribute to large-scale loss and damage to the main ecologically significant arteries, lungs and veins of the continent. When this is said and done, lives would be saved and supported, food security would be achieved while sustainable environmental behaviors and cultures would be sufficiently nurtured.
- Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in a personal capacity and can be contacted at: [email protected]