Botswana IS a landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa bordered to the south by South Africa and to the north by Zimbabwe and Namibia. It is a semi-arid country, dominated to the southwest by part of the vast Kalahari Desert. Only about 0.65 percent of the land is arable. Its main environmental issues are periodic droughts, limited access to fresh water, overgrazing, and desertification. The population is approximately 1.8

million people. Botswana has one of the world's highest rates of HIV-AIDS prevalence, with an estimated 37.3 percent of the adult population infected with the virus. This has put an enormous strain on the country's financial resources, and has made it even more difficult to deal with environmental issues.

Current climate models predict a regional decrease in rainfall of 10-20 percent by 2070. A 10 percent decline in rainfall would leave Botswana with just 23 percent of its current surface water flow; a 20 percent decrease would leave the country's few water sources completely dry. Researchers have also found that the dunes of the Kalahari Desert are beginning to shift for the first time in 16,000 years, reacting to vegetation loss and global shifts in wind patterns. This will push the dunes into Botswana's already stressed agricultural regions by 2100.

A study of crocodile populations along the Nile River near Okavango, Botswana, conducted by Alison Leslie, has shown that rising temperatures are leading to a decrease in the number of male crocodiles. Male offspring are produced only within a certain range of temperatures, and as the average temperature is increasing, more and more broods are all female, or female-dominated. This will eventually lead to a decline in the species.

Botswana is not a high CO2 emitter, although studies show a 43 percent increase in emissions 1990-98. In 1998, per capita CO2 emissions were 2.4 thousand metric tons, higher than the sub-Saharan average, but less than half the world average. About 66 percent of emissions came from the burning of solid fuels such as wood and charcoal, while 34 percent came from liquid fuel use. Botswana has signed a number of international environmental accords, including the Kyoto Protocol and conventions on biodiversity, climate change, desertification, protection of endangered species, the ozone layer, and wetlands. However, the government has ratified none of these conventions.

See ALSO: Desertification; Deserts; Diseases; Health.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Environment News Service, (cited October 2007); National Geographic, (cited October 2007).

Heather K. Michon Independent Scholar

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