Harare, The governments of Mozambique and Zimbabwe have established a tri-basin institution to manage the Buzi, Pungwe, and Save River Basins’ water resources, which have, over the years, suffered from extreme climate effects such as floods, droughts, and cyclones.
The Buzi, Pungwe, and Save (BUPUSA) Watercourse Commission culminated from the signing of
the Save Water Sharing Agreement, the BUPUSA Hosting Agreement, and the BUPUSA Establishment Agreement by the two countries’ Ministers of Water in Harare, Zimbabwe on 17 May 2023 and the Pungwe and Buzi accords in 2016 and 2019, respectively.
The signing of the agreements was witnessed by the host His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe and his counterpart, His Excellency Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of Mozambique, who both commended the achievement and emphasized the need to operationalise the Agreements and execute the mandate of the new tri-basin organisation.
“The Bilateral Tri-basin Commission will strengthen good neighbourliness and the social and
economic ties that already exist between Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Further to enhancing cooperation between the two countries, the BUPUSA Commission will also create a platform for dialogue between the two countries on the management of the three basins,” said Hon Carlos Mesquita, Minister of Public Works and Water Resources – Mozambique, upon signing the
agreements on behalf of his government.
The BUPUSA Watercourses Commission will have oversight on the planning, development, and management of the water resources within the Buzi, Pungwe, and Save River Basins.
The BUPUSA Secretariat will be hosted by the Government of Mozambique for the coming 15 years
and by Zimbabwe, thereafter, as provided for by the BUPUSA Hosting Agreement.
Hon. Dr. Anxious Masuka, Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Development – Zimbabwe, commended the establishment of the commission, which he said, “will ensure that water is managed in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner to promote peace and provide prosperity for the stakeholders in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.”
Cooperation in the Pungwe, Save, and Buzi river basins is driven by water resources, joint monitoring, planning, development, and management of shared water resources, which require the two countries to cooperate. This follows the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses, which was signed in 2000.
The Protocol, whose objective is fostering closer cooperation for judicious, sustainable, and coordinated
management, protection, and utilisation of shared watercourses and advance the SADC agenda of regional integration and poverty alleviation, calls for the need to establish river basin institutions, such as river basin commissions, joint water commissions, and water-sharing agreements.
The Buzi, Pungwe, and Save basins, collectively known as BUPUSA, are exclusively shared by the two countries and drain into the Indian Ocean. These three basins are located along the Beira corridor, an important economic corridor that links the Beira harbour to the hinterland.
The river basins are experiencing an increase in the frequency of extreme hydro-metrological events (floods and droughts). The number of droughts in the two countries is on the increase (1982, 1986, 1990-1992, 1995, 2010-2011, 2015-2020, 2023).
The cyclone events (Eline, Japhet, Idai, Dineo, Ana, Freddy) are also testimony to these climate extremes.
Human activities in the basins are also on the rise, causing damage to the environment as well as deteriorating water quality.
Small-scale gold miners in the basins have been identified as major polluters impacting surface water, groundwater, and wetlands adjacent to the river.
Added to this are inappropriate catchment management activities in various parts of the basins, such as shifting and slope cultivation, charcoal burning, and gold panning, which have led to land degradation including increased sediment loads and deteriorating water quality.
Through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – funded Management of Competing Water Uses and Associated Ecosystems in Pungwe, Buzi, and Save Basins project, the Mozambican and Zimbabwean governments are being supported in the conservation, sustainable use, and risk mitigation of the BUPUSA basins’ water resources and promotion of holistic approaches using the water-energy-food nexus, with a specific interest in connected ecosystems.
The project is being implemented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), while Global Water Partnership Southern Africa (GWPSA) is the bilateral executing agency at the regional
level. At the national level, the project is being executed by the Ministry of Public Works, Housing, and Water Resources and Administração Regional de Águas – Centro (ARA-Centro, IP), ARA –Sul, IP in Mozambique and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Resettlement; and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) in Zimbabwe.
Mr. Alex Simalabwi, Executive Secretary for GWPSA-Africa, Director – AIP, and other partners, facilitated the negotiations leading to the establishment of the Commission, welcomed the establishment of the BUPUSA Watercourses Commission, and congratulated the two countries on such an achievement.
“The High-level Panel on Water Investments in Africa (High-Level Panel) and GWPSA are proud to
be associated with the signing of the three BUPUSA transboundary agreements and the establishment of the BUPUSA Watercourse Commission,” said Mr. Simalabwi.
He said the High-level Panel and GWPSA are committed to supporting the Commission in the development of its transboundary action plan and mobilising resources.
The IUCN also pledged its continued commitment, through its Water and Biodiversity programmes, to supporting the establishment and functioning of the commission.
“It is very exciting and interesting that we are establishing a unique and distinct type of watercourse commission which is preceded by a lot of activities within the basins themselves including, groundwater interventions, early warning systems, and environmental flows”, said Mr. Davison Saruchera – Senior Programme Officer – IUCN.
“We are confident that the BUPUSA Watercourse Commission will deliver its mandate on transboundary water cooperation and management and will continue supporting its work.”
The BUPUSA Water Commission is the first of its kind in the region, having oversight over three basins. The establishment of the Commission builds upon lessons learned from the established river basins organisations including the Cuvelai Watercourse Commission (CUVECOM), the Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM), the Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM), the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM), and the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM).
The commission is also set to open doors for integrated development of the basins through transboundary projects while monitoring and advising the two member states on the emerging
transboundary water resources issues in the three basins.
The recently signed agreements, together with the Pungwe Basins and Buzi Basins’ agreements
were developed by the Mozambique and Zimbabwe governments with financial support from
the Global Environmental Facility, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit
(GIZ) GmbH, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and the United
States Agency for International Development (USAID) Resilient Waters Program.