News from Tourism Concern
Botswana Bushmen to get water at last
Posted: Jul 11, 2011
The indigenous Bushmen of Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) will receive a crucial new water supply this month after winning a lengthy court battle, according to AFP news agency.
Gem Diamonds Company, which was granted rights to mine in the reserve last year, said it will begin drilling four boreholes in July for the Bushmen. Gem Diamonds has reportedly established a partnership with a non-profit organisation, VOX United, to drill four boreholes to provide the residents with water. The programme follows consultations with the local communities.
The first luxury tourist lodge in the CKGR, run by Wilderness Safaris, opened in 2009 and was allowed to source water while the Bushmen’s access was denied by the government.
Tourism Concern contacted Wilderness Safaris with concerns over this issue in May 2010. Such an example of water inequity between the tourism industry and marginalised indigenous peoples was compounded by the fact that, despite following the formal government tendering process, Wilderness failed to acquire the free, prior and informed consent (‘F-PIC’) of the Bushmen before operating the lodge on their traditional lands.
The need for companies to obtain the F-PIC of indigenous communities is set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is particularly important where a government is known to be involved in human rights violations, as is the case in Botswana. In February 2010, the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples [link], James Anaya, reported that the Botswana Government was falling short of international human rights standards in its treatment of the Bushmen. He said that the Government has failed to “adequately consult with indigenous peoples in significant decisions affecting them and to respect their rights to traditional lands and resources”.
Tourism Concern also challenged the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on their decision to shortlist Wilderness Safaris for a prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow Award, despite the on-going controversy. The WTTC chose not to de-select Wilderness, based on Wilderness’ wider, on-going tourism initiatives, which seek to benefit local people, including indigenous communities.
The WTTC confirmed its belief that human rights are a fundamental issue and are incorporated into the Awards criteria, which also follow the UN Foundation Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria.
However, the WTTC agreed to consider incorporating more specific human rights language into the criteria. Tourism Concern greatly welcomes this decision and has reiterated that self-determination, land access, and water rights would key issues to be more explicitly included.
Background to the Kalahari Bushmen issue
In January 2011, Botswana’s High Court instructed the government to re-open a borehole in the CKGR which the Bushmen depended on for water.
The government had evicted the Bushmen in 2002 and closed a borehole which was their only source of water, other than sparse rainwater collected from depressions in the sand. In 2006, the High Court ruled that the Bushmen have the right to stay in their ancestral land. However, the government had refused to reopen the borehole.
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