Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry Abraham Nehemiah has revealed that the plan to extract water from the Kavango Region mooted by the Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma more than 20 years ago was left to gather dust after being submitted to the Southern African Development Community for consideration.
The revelations also cement sentiments by analysts that the Government has since independence failed to have a continuity plan on important policies although transition politically has been smooth.
The planned Kavango river water extraction plan was meant to avert possible water shortages that would affect the country at any given point in the future.
Ironically the plan is now coming back on the table following revelations that the city of Windhoek is facing dire water supply challenges because of perennial drought conditions that have been affecting the country in the past three years. The drought conditions dried up the country’s main water reservoirs leaving the city to adopt stringent water saving methods.
“The project, that will allow for the channelling of water from the Kavango River to Namibia’s central areas as proposed by the founding father is still with the a SADC committee for possible consideration,” Nehemia said.
He also added that, “The Act required a lot of consultations and was handled by three ministerial consultants, however, currently it is with the final consultant for more research, meaning we are at the final stage of the act and will be handed over to the parliamentary standing committee by mid-July this year. The IWRM has already been approved and there is an advisory council working closely on issues regarding the water crisis.”
Commenting on the failure by Government to find a solution to the water crisis while there was still time Institute for Public Policy Research’s (IPPR) Dietrich Remmert, told The Villager that, “Namibia has a set of ambitious and complex policies, laws and regulations, however many remain fragmented and unimplemented. Factors that also contributes to the water crisis include loss of technical expertise and capacity from water sector institutions, and the overall lack of investment in capital water infrastructure projects and maintenance backlog.”
Remmert also said that the water crisis could be tackled effectively, if the government enact as well as implement the Integrated Water Resource Management Plan (IWRM) and realistically explore finance options and Public Private Partnerships. He also added that provisions and fast-tracking of financing planned and costly projects should be made while at the same time planning of Water Resource Management needs to become transparent and holistic, putting an emphasis on Water Demand Management over Water Supply.
The currently ongoing yet increasingly precarious situation of freshwater scarcity is driven by weak policies which do not provide for proper use of water in the areas that demand more water such as irrigation, urban areas and tourism. Namibia has a water holding capacity of 600 Mm3 per annum in regards to sustainable water resources, while there is an estimated demand to outstrip sustainable supply before or by 2025.
Meanwhile, the Water Act of 2013, spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) has been passed by Parliament in 2013 and has ever since been with ministerial officials for consultations. The Act aims at making provision for the management, protection, development, use and conservation of water resources and to provide for the regulation and monitoring of water services and to provide for incidental matters.
The Water Act of 2013, also aims at integrating water service plans and water conservation and water demand management strategies and implementing efficient water management practices. The act also aims at recovering fees and charges for water services provided by the State and putting charges on such land.
Analysts suggest that the Areva Desalination Plant is a much expensive water generating plant, with an estimated cost of N$3.5 billion, while the Kavango pipeline will cost the government an estimated N$1.7 billion. Stressing that the N$24 billion needed to curb the looming water crisis, Nehemia said that the funds are not available, however, he added, provision can be made to obtain the funds.