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The State of the National Address (SONA) was delivered by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana, Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi this week. As a result, there is no where environmental management can be divorced from politics. That is, political will is a critical determinant of the success or failure of environmental policies and interventions in any country. As a result, harnessing the political will necessary to implement environmental solutions can be challenging because environmental priorities may compete with other societal interests in policymaking.
The environment plays a significant role in the livelihoods and well-being of all of us. Botswana’s natural environment provides a rich array of environmental goods and services that have supported and continue to provide opportunity for economic development and improved livelihoods in Botswana. In this regard, this is an endowment that requires a wise-use management approach so that future generations can benefit from them.
While this is the case, there is a lot that those working in the environment expected from the State of the Nation Address by the President this week. For example, we expected much to be said by the President in relation to addressing the environmental challenges that face Botswana and the world. Botswana is faced with some environmental challenges either on long- or short-term basis.
The main environmental issues currently faced by Botswana include water scarcity, environmental pollution and waste management, land degradation, deforestation, and Climate change. These are inevitable outcomes of both the changing forces of nature as well as human influences, especially negligence.
Political will is necessary to have Botswana’s biodiversity to be conserved. Biodiversity conservation is critical as it ensures the existence and availability of animals, plants, and their habitats to be available in future. By conserving wildlife, we’re ensuring that future generations can enjoy our natural world and the incredible species that live within it.
However, addressing environmental crises can be impeded when citizens, especially politicians do not see environmental problems as impacting their lives, or when they lack the education to evaluate the importance of environmental problems and challenges. This often comes when human benefits from environmental exploitation and protection compete.
In Northwestern Botswana, politics and political decision making become handy when considering Climate change and its impact on livelihoods, dependency of rural livelihoods on the environment especially from the Okavango Delta and Chobe region, reliance of the tourism industry on the environment. Political decision on environmental conservation should be informed by scientific studies.
For many decades, those working on environmental conservation have noted the lack of research funds and facilities such as research laboratories and research equipment in Botswana. The absence of a National Research Council and a significant environmental budget in Botswana hinders research that would otherwise provide solutions to some of the environmental challenges that the country currently faces.
Botswana needs to fund research and develop high quality research and innovation that can be transformed into tangible applications and products. In this regard, a National Research Council should be established and tasked with the responsibility to make research funding and innovation possible. In this regard, the National Research Council for Botswana is long overdue and needs to be established sooner than later in Botswana. Political will can thus play a significant role in addressing environmental challenges that face Botswana.