The Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Centre (HOORC)

Description

The origins of HOORC actually lie with a government dredging project which the Department of Water Affairs attempted to launch in 1991.


This was part of the larger Southern Okavango Integrated Water Development Project initially proposed in the mid 1980s. The project was do deepen, widen and realign some bends along 42 kilometres of the Boro River by dredging and building bunds. The intention was to improve the river's flow, enable it to fill a proposed resevoir in Maun, thus providing a more reliable and increased water supply to Ngamiland.


A national and international furor arose over the project. Ngamiland residents were for most part against the project. Many felt they had not been adequately consulted; others said they did not believe it would work, having seen other bunding projects fail. Many believed it would bring a loss of natural resources wuch as fish and reeds; others expressed concernabout increased health risks. Local and regional NGOs and international environmental organisations such as Greenpeace protested the plan, and strongly lobbied the Botswana government to reconsider. A comprehensive Environmental Impact Study was done by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which reported a number of drawbacks to the project, including environmental damage. In light of all these factors, the Botswana government decided to stop the project.


A major and very positive upshot of the controversy, however, was Government's realisation that it lacked sufficient background knowledge and an adequiate scientific base to formulate policy and management decisions on the Delta. Government also realised that an impartial body was needed to monitor developments in the Delta.


The idea to start a research centre focusing on sustainable utilisation of the Okavango's resources was floated. The University of Botswana, through the Faculty of Science, expressed interest; and eventually Government took the decision to create a research centre as a part of the national university.


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Last updated on 2015-16-09 at 08:08