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Namwater Completes First Part of the Omahenene-Olushandja Canal Reconstruction

By: Nghiinomenwa-vali Erastus

The renovation of the first section of the 150 kilometres Omahenene-Olushandja Open Water Canal in the Omusati region has been completed.

The 5,8 km of the water canal was jointly commissioned this week by the ministry of agriculture, water and land reform and NamWater. The rehabilitation work started in February last year.

The N$63 million work has caused quite a disruption in the supply of potable water to the northern regions and smallholder farmers along the canal.

However, NamWater has indicated that the reconstruction was necessary for the 50-year-old canal.

They are also busy with similar work at another section starting from Ogongo towards Oshakati.

Section A of the canal which lies between Olushandja dam and the bridge on the Outapi-Ruacana road was awarded to Radial Truss Industries in a joint venture with Imperative Construction and Engineering.

Section B which is now completed, lies between the Omahenene border post and the bridge, was awarded to Brumar Construction.

The ministry and NamWater indicated  the canal has reached its effective lifespan and the cost of maintaining it became unsustainable, making the total reconstruction of the canal a high priority.

While the initial design of the canal was functional, it gave NamWater difficulties with maintaining the canal as the local soil conditions often resulted in the concrete blocks moving out of position over the years..

“The completed section is the first of such sections where the reconstruction used a different more robust design which we believe will last for decades ahead,” NamWater said.

Omahenene-Olushandja Open Water Canal was constructed in 1972 and it bears historic and socio-economic significance as it conveys water for about 150 km from Calueque Dam to the Oshakati Water Treatment Plant.

According to NamWater, working on the canal section has not been an easy undertaking.

“We had to divert water into earth bypasses so that we could continue supplying our consumers and that came at great inconveniences to both us as NamWater and the consumers.”

The bypasses often failed or transported a considerable volume of sand into the system, which resulted in restricted flow downstream. This led to an increased treatment cost, especially at the Olushandja plant due to high turbidity caused by the bypass.

The water utility has indicated that some of the consumers, especially farmers that irrigate from the Olushandja dam, had to struggle with getting water as the level of the dam went down considerably.

The majority of residents in the four northern regions of Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto are supplied with fresh water from the Kunene river at Calueque dam in Southern Angola, through this canal.

The canal is a source of water for livestock and an enabler of horticulture activities for small-scale farmers.

NamWater operates the canal as well as four treatment plants  located at Olushandja, Outapi, Ogongo and Oshakati to ensure that drinking water quality is supplied to people in those regions.

It is for that reason that one of the government’s largest green scheme projects – the Etunda Irrigation Scheme (despite underperformance) was developed in this region and is being supplied with water from the Calueque dam via this canal.

NamWater also indicated that the first section of the canal work is the beginning as plans are already underway to refurbish all weak sections along the entire canal up to Oshakati.

Water minister Calle Schlettwein indicated that the provision of water is one of the government’s top priorities.

Schlettwein said it is the reason that projects worth N$10 billion have been approved to develop and upgrade water infrastructure, to extend secure water supply to all corners of the country up to 2037.

Apart from the canal reconstruction, the minister said the government has also made available funds to NamWater for water project.

Namwater is busy finalising designs for major projects in northern Namibia such as new water treatment plants at Oshakati and Rundu as well as pipeline networks and related infrastructure that will extract water from the Ohangwena II Aquifer.

Construction tenders for those projects are expected to be advertised during the first quarter of 2023.

These projects are made possible by the government, with project co-financing having already been secured from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for the three projects, and further funding arrangements being finalised with the German Development Bank (KfW).

Schlettwein indicated that while the government encourages food production, emerging horticulture producers’ water pumping activities should be regulated.

“Noting the emerging horticulture activities in the region, the pumping of water from the canal needs to be regulated to prevent damage to the canal and pollution of water,” he said.


Nghiinomenwa-vali Erastus

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