Friday 14 May 2021
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Politics delay Baynes as energy crisis looms

While the country continues to depend on its neighbors to meet the local electricity demand, politicians continue to play tennis with the much-talked Baynes Hydropower project that has been on the cards for over a decade now.
Namibia continues to import a large share of electricity, at times up to 70 per cent of electricity requirements, from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, depending on the availability of water at the Ruacana Hydro-power Station.
The national electrification rate currently stands at 34%, meaning two-thirds of the Namibian population still do not enjoy access to a modern form of energy such as electricity.
Namibia spends at least N$2.6 billion to import electricity annually, the high cost of electricity imports have also been blamed for Namibia’s high trade imbalance which has seen imports exceeding exports by close to N$26 billion.
Government has also been warned on several occasions that electricity imports presents a drag to the economy, while Eskom which supplies most of Namibia’s electricity faces its own challenges. The challenges range from generation vulnerability due to transmission vulnerability and losses, flow of river, dam levels, political risks, capacity availability and currency risks which all subsequently threatens Namibia’s security of supply.
The ruling party and DTA of Namibia continue to blame each other for the delay as far as setting up the project is concerned.
Epupa Constituency councillor Nguzu Muharukua this week downplayed allegations that the DTA stands opposed to the construction of the Baynes hydropower Dam in his constituency and has called government to formalize talks and to join residents of Epupa on the negotiating to put to bed one Namibia’s longest standing saga.
The governments of Namibia and Angola have for long intended to build a hydropower plant and dam downstream of the Epupa Falls at Baynes – also known as Orokawe hydropower along the Kunene River, 200 km downstream of Ruacana in the Epupa Constituency.
Muharukua said since he took charge of the constituency seven years ago, he is yet to receive a formal approach from government to address issues blocking the construction of the hydropower dam.
The Baynes hydropower Dam is seen as an opportunity that could lift thousands of inhabitants out of abject poverty in the Kunene region.
“Up to now, I have not met any government official regarding the setting up of the dam,” Muharukua lamented.
Muharukua dismissed accusations that DTA was doing everything possible to ensure that the construction of Baynes hydropower does not commence.
“These accusations that it is not the people of Epupa but the DTA that has blocked the construction of the dam is a blatant lie. Even if you ask those behind this lie as to when and where a meeting took place in which the DTA expressed its opposition to the construction of the dam, they will not give you an answer,” Muharukua dismissed.
Moreover, in a bid to get a better understanding of how hydropower dams have benefited communities in other parts of the world, Muharukua and three other individuals embarked on a Chinese adventure.
“I deliberately went to China because I heard that there are three dams in that country and because of the proposed dam here in Namibia, I wanted to find out how these dams have helped raise people out of poverty there,” he said.
According to Muharukua, the experience in China changed his perception as it gave him clearer picture of how the construction of such a facility could benefit the communities who reside in areas where hydropower dams are built. As a result, Muharukua wants the people of Epupa and the Namibian government to take the same route as that of the Chinese people if the inhabitants of the North-Eastern constituency are to reap the benefits of the hydropower dam. Muharukua said government must first identify a place where those currently residing at the proposed construction site of the dam would be relocated to.
With reference to China, Muharukua said: “In China the people told me that firstly their government identified land on which they would be resettled.
Then government[Chinese] made sure that there was water, built houses and universities among other basic necessities for the people before relocating them.”
“Before government could start the construction process in China, the community signed a contract with the Chinese government which would ensure that people of those communities would get preferential employment at the construction the hydropower dam. As a consequence, the [Chinese] government sent inhabitants from those communities to universities for them to acquire the necessary skills that would enable them to construct the dams themselves as opposed to bringing foreigners.”
Upon return from China in 2012, Muharukua who was accompanied by fellow DTA councillor Kazeongere Tjeundo and two senior councillors from Chief Hikuminue Kapika Royal House decided to hold a meeting with residents of Epupa to share the Chinese story.
Muharukua believes that the government should create a dialogue with residents that would be affected directly by the construction of the said hydropower dam.
“Government must dialogue with communities residing there (Epupa) and should tell them that their children are going to get the necessary skills for them to later return as employees who would then be responsible for constructing the dam. As for those who reside and depend directly on the river for water, government must find an alternative place where they would be resettled,” he said.

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