CAR WASHES COULD IMPEDE NAMIBIA’S WATER SAVING CAMPAIGN

If there is anything that could make Namibia's water saving campaign fail, especially in Windhoek, it is likely to be car washes.

Namibia launched the national water saving campaign Friday, to educate the people on how to conserve the remaining water, to last until the dams supplying the country's major cities and towns have enough reserves.

Scheduled to run for two years until Sept 18 in 2018, the campaign with the theme: "My Water, My Future, Our Namibia" aims to implement water demand management, to provide an immediate to medium term alternative by augmenting water supply and reducing demand.

The agriculture ministry is leading the campaign, with the help of the City of Windhoek, Namibia Water Corporation.

There are more than 400 unregistered car washes in Windhoek, that use on average 30 litres of water to clean one vehicle.

Most of these illegal car washes are in Katutura, Windhoek's sprawling township, while 21 registered ones, according to a list made available by the City of Windhoek, are either part of a service station or a garage, in the industrial area or the central business district.

Simon Hafeni's car wash is one of the 400 illegal ones. Hafeni was injured in a car accident two years ago. He then lost his job at a construction company in Windhoek.

With a family of five to feed, Hafeni has been running the car wash in the Single Quarters section of Katutura. He employs four young boys, who dropped out of school.

On average, Hafeni's car wash cleans six vehicles and charges anything between 70 and 120 Namibian dollars (about 5 to 9 U.S. dollars) per day.

There are other bigger and popular car washes that can work on more than 20 cars per day. During weekend, such car washes can serve up to 30 or 40 cars that belong to shebeen patrons.

Estimates given to the City of Windhoek during a meeting with the Car wash Forum in June this year indicate that washing one car requires more than 30 litres of water. This means that Hafeni's car wash uses about 210 litres on average per day.

With the national water saving campaign in place, Hafeni is not sure whether his livelihood will be affected this time, although he defied similar measures in the past.

Most illegal car wash owners too say they will not allow the City of Windhoek or the government to close down their businesses.

In the case of Hafeni, he says, if anyone wants to close down his only source of income, then they should give him something to do.

"Look, I am wheelchair bound. I have no job. The car wash looks after my family. It also looks after the families of my workers. If it's closed down, what will I do?" he asks.

He also says most car wash owners are unemployed just like him.

"The only businesses we can do is either running a shebeen or a car wash. I do not want to run a shebeen," he says.

Indeed, in one section of Windhoek -- Eveline Street in the Greenwell Matongo area -- most shebeens are part of car washes.

The City of Windhoek has also said, closing down car washes was a complicated matter for them because it is an industry providing jobs.

Although the City of Windhoek warned in Apr, that it would disconnect water or impose a 2,000 Namibian dollars (140 U.S. dollars) fine on anyone found watering gardens or washing cars at home, as part of the new Zero Tolerance to Water Wastage policy. It also said, those who use more than 50,000 litres per month would be fined. No such measures have been taken so far.

Manager for corporate communications, Joshua Amukugo, is on record saying it would be a disaster to close down illegal car washes.

"It should be done systematically and in an orderly manner," he said, when the city announced water saving measures early this year.

"These things of car washes are so complicated," he said, adding that, they can do it if they want because they have the means and powers to ask the city police to go and close down the car washes.

Amukugo says, the city has been trying to educate car wash owners to use buckets instead of hosepipes.

A technician in the City of Windhoek water department, Dieter Tolke, encouraged car-wash owners to invest in water-recycling equipment, but this was shot down because of the high costs of such equipment

At a meeting in June this year, some car wash owners asked the City of Windhoek on help in acquiring water recycling equipment. Until now this has not become reality.

The City of Windhoek then proposed that car washes should at most use 15 litres per vehicle but most said this was impossible.

One of the car wash owners, who attended the meeting, Etienne Louw, said, although the impact of the water cuts on businesses is tough, people should not forget that there is a crisis.

"I try to find the middle road, in order to at least stay open," said Louw.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK