Botswana Is Running Out of Water

Economic growth in Botswana is under threat, as water shortages bite.

The Gaborone Dam sits in a short stack of hills on the outskirts of Botswana’s capital. Today it is parched silt, the punishing heat having burned off the little water left behind after a storm last week snapped a dry spell that has felt endless to many residents.

A sleepy, low-rise city of 230,000 people, Gaborone is the heart of the global diamond industry, which is fed by the giant Jwaneng and Orapa mines to the east and north. It is a prosperous place by regional standards, but a deep drought across most of Southern Africa has meant that the city has been experiencing rolling water outages for the first time in living memory for most Batswana.

It is an unprecedented and frightening situation in a country that has a reputation as one of Africa’s best-run economies — a rare place that has successfully translated its diamond wealth into genuine development — and one which illustrates how climate change is undermining progress and creating new challenges for societies in the developing world. As extreme weather events become more severe and more frequent, experts warn that decades of work and billions of dollars spent in bringing populations out of poverty in Southern Africa could be undone.

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