When I first came to live and work in Maun in April 2000, I had little knowledge that plots along the Thamalakane River were considered prime and cost more. In addition, I did not understand why some people prefer having plots and living along the river. However, after 23 years living in Maun, I now understand and wish I had a plot along the river.
In a similar manner, there has been a significant number of development projects that have been allocated plots along the Thamalakane River. Some of the development projects are not only limited to the hundreds of residential plots found along the River from the Buffalo Fence right up to Chanoga. These projects include the Mall of Maun which is currently under construction. Mall of Maun has a petrol filling station under construction close to the river.
There are also projects such as a newly constructed Tourism and Hospitality Building at Maun Secondary School. Maun Lodge has also expanded some rooms along the river, so is Parkview Hotel. There are also two large, cleared plots (one just before the Old Matlapana Bridge or Back Packers Bridge and the other just after Sedia Hotel. What is disturbing about these two plots is that almost all the trees were cut, and the plots left clean but bare.
The other developments include underground sewerage pipelines currently being constructed by the Chinese companies. One of the underground pipelines is at the famous picnic and recreation spot known as The Big Tree. Most of us have had events at Big Tree.
We enjoyed relaxing at Big Tree. Recently, when driving across the Matlapana Bridge to my workplace at Sexaxa, I saw a big wall fence on my left literally constructed in the river. The first thing that came to my mind was, “where is the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tawana Land Board-has these two organisations allowed the erection of that big wall fence in the river?”
While developments projects are critical for the socio-economic development of Maun and Botswana, care should be taken to avoid the destruction of Thamalakane River. Potential impacts that may come from the development projects include: oil spillages into the water especially from the filling station, water pollution underground pipeline in the event of an accident and a general destruction of the aesthetic beauty of the river and its immediate surroundings. In other countries, areas along the river are designated as protected areas and used for recreation gardens, walkways, bicycle cycling and are protected by law.
I am also asking myself whether all these projects underwent a rigorous Environmental Impact Assessment (EIAs) before they were allowed to kick start. If EIA was done, what is the current level of monitoring. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used to identify the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
By using EIA both environmental and economic benefits can be achieved. EIA is significant in that it is a means designed for the protection and improvement of the environmental quality of life. The failure to undertake an EIA prior to project implementation or the failure to undertake monitoring of a project once implemented is a recipe for disaster in as far as environmental conservation. I can only hope and pray that all the development projects along the Thamalakane River have undergone a rigorous EIA process and montoring.