For the first time in 10 years, Botswana's Bushmen are ready to celebrate World Water Day as they enjoy unobstructed access to the life-giving substance. The Day will be marked on Thursday 22 March.
Their main desert well was capped shut by the government in 2002 in an effort to move the tribe off their ancestral land to make way for diamond mining.
However, a long and sustained campaign by the Bushmen, backed by Survival International, means that they are now free to drink and wash, while the world celebrates the importance of water.
Last September, a new well was dug at Mothomelo in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) by the non-profit organisation Voc United.
Survival International describe it as a significant breakthrough for a community denied the fundamental right to water, even though they won a landmark court case over the right to return to their land in 2006.
Despite the magnitude of the trial, it took a further five years, and another court case, for the Bushmen to be given the right to access to water on their land.
Bushman spokesman Jumanda Gakelebone said “We think, as everyone knows, that water is an important thing for human life. The Mothomelo borehole has changed lives in the CKGR. Old and young people no longer have to walk long distances to get water. We are very happy and thank all the people who helped make it possible.”
Survival International say they are continuing to work to ensure the rights of the Bushmen are respected. They support ongoing efforts to open more wells in the reserve.
“It is a triumph that the Bushmen are able to join the world in celebrating the importance of water this year,” said Survival International’s Director, Stephen Corry, today (20 March).
He added, “Yes, there are still other communities in the reserve who need better access to water, but it is also very important to celebrate the historic achievements made in securing the Bushmen’s rights to their ancestral land.”
World Water Day, which is organised by the United Nations, is now in its twentieth year.