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-Ministers responsible for the water sector from the Southern African Development Community (SADC)  met  in Luanda, Angola yesterday to review progress on the implementation of the third phase of the Regional Strategic Action Plan on Integrated Water Resources Management and Development (RSAP III) 2011-2015.

The third phase of the Regional Strategic Action Plan is the framework for action to achieve sustainable development of water resources in the region through the development of water infrastructure on the basis of sound water governance and water management.

The Minister of Energy and Water for the Republic of Angola, João Baptista Borges is hosting the meeting, at which Zambia was represented by deputy minister for Mines Energy and Water Development, Charles Zulu, and Zambia’s Ambassador to Angola, Barbra Chilangwa.  

The Ministers’ meeting was preceded by meetings of Senior Officials and the Zambezi Council of Ministers.

In attendance were  Ministers from the host, Angola, the Kingdom of Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa,  Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mauritius and Seychelles were not represented while the SADC Secretariat delegation was headed by Freddie Motlhatlhedi, the Senior Programme Officer for Energy in the Directorate of Infrastructure and Services.

The Ministers also reviewed the status of implementation of projects in the various river basins in the SADC region, namely the Okavango, Limpopo, Orange-Senqu, Buzi, Save, Ruvuma, Zambezi, Kunene, Cuvelai, Incomati/Maputo and Pungwe.

The ministers  commended the state parties of the basins for the progress made in implementing various projects.

In his welcoming remarks Angolan Minister of Energy and Water Development, Joao Baptista Borges, emphasized the importance of cooperation in the management and development of water resources for the SADC region to realize regional economic integration and poverty alleviation.

Mr Borges said the government of Angola was happy to host the meeting at a time when the country was undergoing rehabilitation of various infrastructure to improve the lives of its people.

And speaking on behalf of the SADC Secretariat, Freddie Motlhatlhedi, Senior Programme Officer for Energy in the Directorate of Infrastructure and Services, highlighted some of the progress made by the Water Sector in implementing the RSAP III in the areas of Water Governance, Water Infrastructure and Water management.

Mr Motlhatlhedi said a number of River Basin Institutions are being established and strengthened, and priority Water Infrastructure Development Programmes were near completion.

He added that the SADC region needed a Water Sector Plan that mainstreamed gender issues and was responsive to the needs of the people.

The ministers noted progress made in implementing the RSAP III, approved the Water Programme Priority activities for the financial year 2014/15 as the basis for the development of the Sectors’ annual plan and budget.

They also directed that the final implementation of the Water Programme should take cognizance of the recommendations of the Regional Indicative Strategic Plan (RISDP) Mid-Term Review which was currently underway.

On the overall RSAP III implementation, the ministers noted that remarkable good progress was registered under Water Governance such as the establishment of the Zambezi Water Commission (ZAMCOM) on Wednesday in Luanda and the Limpopo Water Commission (LIMCOM) Organs, as well as the training of water professionals in negotiation skills and Integrity in the water sector.

One of the highlights at the meeting was the adoption by the ZAMCOM Council for the government of Zimbabwe to host the permanent ZAMCOM Secretariat.

This is according to a communiqué released in Luanda by Barbara Lopi Communication and Awareness Expert –Water, at the  SADC Secretariat.

Under Water Infrastructure the ministers noted progress made especially in setting up and commissioning of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) pilot projects in a number of member states which collectively shared the Orange-Senqu, Limpopo, Buzi, Save and Ruvuma river basins.

The ministers noted the Regional Water and Sanitation Fund established by SADC Secretariat to facilitate implementation of priority regional and cross-border water infrastructure projects included in the Regional Infrastructure Master Plan and urged member states to utilize the funds accordingly.

The ministers noted that the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan 2013-2027 was approved by the Summit at its meeting held in August 2012, in Maputo, Mozambique.

The Water Section of the Master Plan has a total of 34 projects of which 23 were hard water infrastructure development projects, three were facilitation (creating conducive environment for investment), four were capacity building projects and another four were strategic studies.

The ministers urged member states to facilitate the implementation of the various strategic water infrastructure projects in the master plan within their respective countries as appropriate.

The ministers noted that under the Water Management Cluster, various basins’ studies were conducted leading to better understanding, management and development of the basins.

The results of the studies conducted in the Buzi, Save, Ruvuma, Limpopo and Orange-Senqu river basins facilitated the development of various planning instruments such as IWRM Strategies, Plans, and Water development scenarios.

On awareness and communication, the ministers noted the progress made in implementing initiatives to enhance visibility of water issues in the region and urged member states to utilize such initiatives as the forum for SADC Water Communicators, and the Southern African Water Wire in their endeavors to communicate water issues.

The ministers further noted the theme for the 6th SADC Multi-Stakeholder Water Dialogue scheduled to take place in October 2013 in Lusaka, Zambia which is Watering Development in SADC: Exploring the water, energy and food nexus for regional cooperation, and development.

They also urged member states to make all efforts to participate actively in the dialogue whose overall objective is to create awareness and understanding of the “Water, Energy and Food Nexus” and why it is important to focus on it.

On the SADC HYCOS Programme, the ministers noted that following the closure of the Phase II of the SADC HYCOS Project, Secretariat embarked on a process of resources mobilization to implement the Phase III of SADC HYCOS.

The ministers reiterated that member states had the responsibility to maintain the SADC HYCOS stations as an integral part of their national hydrological network by ensuring that adequate budget was made available to operate the equipment.

On capacity building and training programmes, the ministers noted that the SADC Secretariat was currently putting together a training programme to empower member states in implementing the RSAP III and the Protocol on Shared Watercourses and directed the Secretariat to expedite the development of a comprehensive training plan for consideration at its next meeting in June, 2014.

On Monitoring and Evaluation of the Water Programme, the ministers approved in principle the draft concept note for the mid-term evaluation of the RSAP III and directed SADC Secretariat to fast track the process of carrying out the review.

On floods and droughts, the ministers noted that efforts continued to be made to improve the sharing of information in the region in times of floods, especially along shared watercourses.

The ministers noted that the region continued to have episodes of flooding in a number of member states during the rainy season and that the Limpopo catchment received flash floods in January that created excessive flooding in Mozambique, causing loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure.

The flood affected 480,000 people and resulted in 117 loss of life while the damage to property and infrastructure is estimated to be US$517 million.

The ministers also noted that in 2013, some member states have started to experience severe drought in their territories, adding that already in Namibia a state of emergency has been declared as over 300,000 to 400,000 people and 1.5 million livestock are affected.

Other member states that are highly affected by drought are Botswana and Lesotho.

The ministers further noted that the extreme weather events required comprehensive hydrological assessments and robust early warning systems.