Botswana, Land and Resources
Most of Botswana is a tableland with an average elevation of about 1,000 m (about 3,300 ft). The Kalahari Desert covers the central and southwestern portions of the country. The principal stream is the Okavango River, which flows southeast from the Angola highlands into northwestern Botswana and drains into the Okavango Delta (Okavango Swamp), where it forms a vast marshland. During the rainy season the flow continues east on the Boteti River to Lake Xau and the Makgadikgadi Pan. The southern part of the country has no permanent streams. In general, Botswana has a semiarid subtropical climate. The average annual rainfall varies from about 640 mm (about 25 in) in the north to less than 230 mm (less than 9 in) in the Kalahari. Rainfall is concentrated in the summer months (December to April). Precipitation, however, is undependable, and the country is subject to drought. Savanna vegetation predominates in most parts of Botswana, and consists of grasslands interspersed with trees. Principal species include acacia, bloodwood, and Rhodesian teak. Wildlife is abundant in Botswana and includes lions, giraffes, leopards, antelope, elephants, crocodiles, and ostriches. Mineral resources include diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, cobalt, manganese, soda ash, asbestos, and salt.
Environmental problems include overgrazing of the land and desertification. Precipitation is irregular, and the country is prone to drought. A large irrigation and water storage project was planned for the northern part of the country during the 1980s, but environmental concerns and popular opposition led to the suspension of the project in 1992.
Botswana has designated 18.5 percent (1997) of its land as parks and reserves, giving it the highest percentage of protected land in any African country. The Okavango Delta is one of the largest inland deltas in the world and provides habitat for elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippopotamuses, and crocodiles. The country is inhabited by 550 bird species.
Botswana has ratified international agreements protecting endangered species and the ozone layer. The country has also signed treaties limiting trade in endangered animal species.