ORASECOM is in place to harmonise national laws with the SADC Protocol and relevant regional policies, i.e., the SADC Regional Water Policy (RWP) and the SADC Regional Water Strategy (RWS) (SADC 2006; SADC 2005) to protect biodiversity in the Orange-Senqu River basin.
An ORASECOM Agreement was created in 2000 by the four riparian states to establish ORASECOM as a legal entity. The ORASECOM Agreement contains a number of provisions that protect the basin and its biodiversity (UNDP-GEF 2008). Specific environmental clauses in the agreement include the obligations to “protect and preserve the River System” (Article 7.12), “prevent, reduce and control pollution of the River System that may cause significant harm to one or more Parties, including harm to the environment, or to human health or safety, or to the ecosystem of the River System” (Article 7.13), “protect and preserve the estuary” (Article 7.14) and “prevent the introduction of species, alien or new, that have a detrimental effect to the ecosystem of the watercourse” (Article 7.15). To meet these environmental protection obligations, the ORASECOM Agreement endorses the principle of IWRM.
Conservation of biodiversity and water in general is enshrined in existing bilateral agreements and treaties between countries such as in the 'Treaty on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho' (1986) with Protocols I–VI (concluded between 1988 and 1999).
Protection of biodiversity is important at a range of scales.
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The Orange-Senqu River basin states are parties to a number of other relevant international (environmental) agreements, which concern the protection and conservation of biodiversity in the basin:
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention)
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC) non-Annex I
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
At a national level, guidelines to protect aquatic ecosystems are available in South Africa (DWAF 1999,1999a)