Friday 14 May 2021
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Political laxity caused water crisis

…DTA urges Govt to approach Chinese for funding

Whether it calls it a crisis or not, Government needs to act fast on the country’s water crunch and the first step is choosing a course of action and mobilizing resources to avert a calamity. Government may be wary of using the word, but it tacitly admitted this week that Namibia has a water crisis, and according to the official opposition, this is a result of political laxity and a lack of investment in the water sector. In the days before Tuesday’s meeting between President Hage Geingob and state officials responsible for managing the water affairs of the country, at pains to convince all and sundry that there is no crisis – despite the entire country being subjected to constant water reduction orders. During an interview this week with this publication, DTA president McHenry Venaani advised Government to partner its diamond laden neighbor Botswana to setup a desalination plant. “I am saying this because Botswana has a similar crisis, if we put up a plant we should make sure Botswana also invest in the plant so that we share the cost and pipe water to them. They are also a semi-arid nation so the desalination plant should not be an effort only of Namibia, we should bring in partners,” he said.

Last December the Chinese government pledged to provide US$1 trillion in financing to African countries by 2025, this came as little surprise to many as China has long courted Africa to gain access to the continent’s r natural resources through state concessions and it has also invested and helped to develop Africa’s industries. In recent years China has issued at least US$10 billion in loans to African countries as part of a larger funding package, prioritizing infrastructure, agricultural and manufacturing, according to the Council of Foreign Relations. Venaani proposed that Government-instead of building a new airport and Parliament-approach the Chinese for financial assistance to improve the water infrastructure. “One thing that is lacking in the water infrastructure, we have not developed our underground water infrastructure over the years, there is a lot of water found in Tsumeb, but I have not seen a specialist talking about it, there is water in Ohangwena in an aquifer that can be used for agriculture and people but nothing is being done,” he said. Venaani also raised the issue of using the annual floods in northern Namibia to the advantage of the public by putting up underground water reservoirs. “This will enable communities to store that water and use the water for irrigation purposes and also use the water to bring more rain because the cycle of rain is created by pumping more water,” he said.

Government has flirted with the idea of putting up a desalination for over a decade now, but it seems the ideological shift to put up one now arrived too late and the decision not to invest in a desalination plant is catching up with Government. Changing weather patterns across the globe in recent years served as a warning to all nations but some-Namibia included- sat back and witnessed how erratic rainfall patterns led to dams running dry. The President has not been hard on the Orange River water usage, which is causing animousity between South Africa and Namibia, Venaani said. “If you look across the border there is irrigation plants there but on our side you hardly see it. We need to conclude the talks with South Africa over the usage of that water. We need to accelerate the talks between the usage of the Kavango and Zambezi Rivers,” he said. Government does not prioritise, maintained Venaani, adding that: “This is a problem identified way back but they[government] is too occupied wasting resources on projects that could have been averted, we should not even be talking of a new Parliament while we have a water crisis.” “There is a laxity and now they want to say they are addressing a crisis, this is a crisis that was identified 20 years ago but they did nothing because nobody was benefiting and there was no big tenders to be given to someone and now that there is a problem they want to rush things”

There is a lot of underground water that is not tapped yet, we need to work on that, said Venaani. Official information indicate that currently the water resource potential stands at 1350 cubic meters for both ground and surface water. Namibia could be in serious trouble by 2030 if the current water trends continue, seeing that the water demand is forecasted to increase from 334.1 cubic metres this year to 711.7 cubic metres 14 years from now. But with the construction of the multibillion dollar Neckartal Dam to be completed next year, Government is preparing to finalise a feasibility study for the Noordoewer Dam. Limited financial resources continues to pain the State when it comes to implementing water projects. President Hage Geingob announced this week that N$24,1 billion is required to implement various water supply projects, but the available funds from 2016-2019 is only N$255 million. The lack of financial resources to implement water supply projects also threatens to derail Government’s plan to increase access to water for human consumption to 100% of the population by 2020. The projects include the supply of desalinated water to Erongo and Khomas, construction of dams, bulk pipelines, expansion of rural pipelines, artificial recharge of groundwater in Windhoek and the replacement of the Calueque-Oshakati Canal.

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