By: Nghiinomenwa-vali Erastus
If all goes well, and feasibility studies find it viable, the //Kharas region will have a fourth dam to capture more of the transboundary-shared water as distributed by the lower part of the Orange River, near Noordoewer.
The plan was revealed by the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reforms, Carl Schlettwein in his keynote address at his Ministerial Strategic and Annual Planning Workshop.
Schlettwein indicated that part of the current financial year’s priority interventions under the Department of Water Affairs is to assess the feasibility of building the Noordoewer/Vioolsdrift Dam (NVD) along the Lower Orange River (LOR).
Vioolsdrift and Noordoewer are small towns on opposite banks of the LOR, some 350 km from the river mouth. Vioolsdrift is in South Africa and Noordoewer is in Namibia.
Furthermore, the country is yet to get feedback from South Africa on the NVD project as this is a joint project between the governments of Namibia and South Africa, still in the planning stage and currently managed by the Permanent Water Commission (PWC).
Christo Dudenski, a civil engineer with the Global Water Partnership (GWP) Southern Africa said N$15 million is needed to complete remaining work for feasibility study, plus N$7.45 billion to implement the project.
A feasibility study undertaken in 2020 cost over N$31.3 million, according to Dudenski.
The project involves the construction of a dam in the Lower Orange River (LOR), about 150 k upstream of estuary, across the border between Namibia and South Africa, likely volume from 300 million cubic metres (38 m high dam wall), to 6,000 million cubic metres (92 m).
Once the VND project materialises, Schlettwein said it will expand the current various production activities that depends on the water from the LOR.
“[This will] further unlock and diversify economic opportunities in the southern part of the country, particularly for the activities that are solely dependent on the Lower Orange water supply for irrigation, industrial and household use,” the Minister said.
Schlettwein explained further the primacy of water supply security in the national development agenda and that no development could occur without water. It also aligns to five goals of the AU Agenda 2063.
“This indispensable role that the water resource plays becomes more elevated for Namibia as an arid country that is highly vulnerable to climate change and variability,” he said.
Thus, it is critical to enhance water supply security for households, and exercising effective stewardship of groundwater resources are important objectives now and over the long term in the water sector.
Early this year, the Ministry raised red flags on Namibia’s dependence on transboundary water as a huge risk that needs to be addressed, especially from the Kunene river, the Cuvelai floodplain, and the Orange river.
At the ministerial workshop last week, Schlettwein promised to finalise negotiations with Angola on the commissioning of Calueque pump station.
Government under the Water Sector Support Programme and related projects under the ambit of the Cabinet Committee on Water Supply Security (CCWSS), wants to cover critical, urgent water supply infrastructure development and sanitation activities prioritised from various studies by the Technical Committee of Experts (TCE) supporting the Cabinet Committee on water established by Presidential order.
It will address major infrastructure bottlenecks in the water sector. The programme started implementation in January 2020, for over a 60 months period, at a cost of N$ 3.3 billion.
The programme is centred on the construction and expansion of water purification plants and water distribution infrastructure across the country.
Furthermore, another big water project is the construction of the modular desalination plant at the coast
Schlettwein said the procurement and PPP partnerships for the desalination plan are to be finalised this year.
The Department of Water Affairs has also indicated that it is also in the process of planning and implementing a range of major projects to augment national bulk water resource infrastructure.
This includes establishing the National Water Resources Infrastructure Management Plan (NWRIA) and reviewing the Water Act 11 of 2013.
The draft will be presented to Cabinet Committee and will thereafter be submitted to Cabinet for approval and then to Parliament before the end of the current financial year.
Another bulk water is the aquifer in the South, according to Schlettwein, adding his Ministry will also handle the contentious issues of the Stampriet Aquifer.
While the implementation of mini desalination plants in various rural communities where the Ministry has drilled boreholes but not fit for human consumption will be continued.
Currently, the biggest water infrastructure the Neckartal Dam is estimated to be able to irrigate seven existing Namibian Schemes for three years with no rain. However, the country is yet to develop a plan to utilise the water. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org