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Analytical summary - The physical environment

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Botswana has factored environmental sustainability into the national agenda. One of the major milestones for the country has been the establishment of the Environmental Impact Assessment legislation in 2005 that requires that all new developments be assessed for their impact on the environment.

The Government of Botswana has developed the Okavango Delta Management Plan to protect the wetlands in the Okavango and the Community Based Natural Resources Management Strategy aimed at facilitating community involvement in managing wildlife and natural resources. Botswana has ratified several international agreements aimed at protecting the environment. These include UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

In Botswana, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with other related ministries and stakeholders, has the responsibility for policy development and capacity-building for a healthy physical environment. Environmental impact includes:

  • population growth, which is especially marked in urban areas
  • growth of the manufacturing sector
  • increased agricultural activity as a strategy to diversify the economy and reduce poverty
  • growth in the tourism industry, the mining sector and service businesses.

Common environmental hazards in Botswana include:

  • contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation
  • storm water drainage
  • solid waste, including household waste and toxic biomedical/clinical waste
  • air and water pollution
  • food contamination
  • workers’ health hazards
  • chemical hazards, including those from agriculture, manufacturing industry, medicines and radiation.

Regulatory mechanisms and policy frameworks guide the nurturance of the physical environment for a healthy people and include the Building Control Act, Factories Act, Town and Country Planning Act, Agrochemicals Act, Guidelines for Disposal of Waste by Landfill, Occupational Health, and Behaviour Change Intervention and prevention of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections.

One of the important drives to the Government's concern about environmental health has been the increased need for management of the growing clinical waste from the health sector. The increasing prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in the country and the consequent advancement in the diagnostic and treatment technologies have resulted in generation of volumes of clinical waste that must be managed for the protection of human health, the environment and natural resources.

In recognition of this need, Botswana developed a Waste Management Policy and a Code of Clinical Management Practice in 1996, and a Waste Management Act in 2008. At the international level, Botswana acceded to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2002, and the Basel Convention for the Control of Trans-boundary Movement of Hazard Waste and Disposal in 1998.

Even though Botswana has legal and technical guidance in a number of national documents, the implementation of the Waste Management Act and the technical guidance provisions have been found to be weak in that:

  • the basic supplies and equipment for waste management were not effectively used
  • human and financial resources were inadequate
  • data on the categories of waste generated were not available to inform planning.