National Assembly members this week were mostly in support of the revised Orange-Senqu Watercourse Commission (Orasecom) Agreement following a motion tabled by agriculture, water and land reform minister Calle Schlettwein in which he asked lawmakers for endorsement of the new plan.
Cabinet last year authorised the water minister to sign on behalf of Namibia the revised Orasecom agreement and to subsequently table the agreement in parliament for ratification.
The Orange-Senqu River basin is the largest river basin in Africa, south of the Zambezi River basin. This transboundary water resource covers large portions of South Africa and Lesotho as well as the southern regions of Botswana and Namibia. Orasecom was established by the governments of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa through the “Agreement for the Establishment of the Orange-Senqu Commission” on 3 November 2000 in Windhoek.
The revision of agreements, Schlettwein said, is necessitated by the need to negotiate reasonable and equitable access of Namibia to the waters of the perennial rivers on the country’s borders and also to align the agreements with the framework provided by the revised SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses, the SADC Water Policy and the SADC Water Strategy.
“Namibia is a downstream country on all of the shared rivers. Ratification of the revised Orasecom Agreement will elevate the roles and functions of Orasecom and its member states towards joint management of shared Orange-Senqu River waters and Namibia’s position especially when negotiating for her reasonable and equitable share,” Schlettwein told lawmakers.The agreement served as the legal instrument governing the joint utilisation of the water resources in the basin as well as the sustainable management of the basin as a whole. According to Schlettwein, the implementation of the projects and programmes within the framework of the old agreement revealed it was outdated and did not provide for some key policy and institutional issues. “The Orasecom Agreement was then revised to align it with the current framework of shared water management in SADC and globally,” he added.
According to him, some of the pertinent provisions of the revised agreement that were not included in the 2000 agreement are among others the secretariat, whose role is programme coordination and management functions.
Others, he said, include coordinating Orasecom activities and implementing its decisions, serving as a repository of information related to the Orange-Senqu River basin and to act as a focal point for Orasecom with all external parties.
He said the ministers responsible for water affairs are now included in the composition of the commission as members of the forum of the parties to be the second highest decision-making organ of the commission, with their annual and extraordinary meetings properly provided for.