Namibia’s water woes persist as Govt pumps N.dollars 120 million into drought-stricken regions

While the government spent N.dollars 120.3 million to rehabilitate, drill and install boreholes in eight drought-stricken regions, many water-related challenges remain.

This is contained in a National Council Standing Committee on Habitat report necessitated by the state of emergency declaration by President Hage Geingob in May last year, amid persisting droughts that had engulfed the country. It covers the 2019/20 financial year.

The committee focused on how the Drought Relief Fund (DRF) was rolled out to the affected regions – Hardap, Omaheke, Kunene, Oshana, Kavango East, Kavango West, Zambezi and Otjozondjupa.

In Hardap, N.dollars 11.8 million was spent to drill 16 boreholes, while N.dollars 2.5 million was used for similar interventions earlier.

The committee found that the Gibeon Constituency had been overlooked in preceding water provision interventions.

Hardap had 553 active water points at the time.

The committee, without quantifying, said “only a few” constituencies in Hardap benefited from the DRF.

“[Access to] water was still a challenge in the Hardap Region due to drought,” it said.

The Members of Parliament also took a swipe at hydrologists in the Agriculture Ministry, saying they “take long to go to the regions”.

Omaheke received N.dollars 14.7 million to address its water woes, with each of its seven constituencies receiving N.dollars 1.9 million.

The report recorded gross misappropriation or theft of public monies. This is because N.dollars 4.9 million was given to Northend Solar Solutions for work it did not do. So far, only N.dollars 1.6 million has been recovered.

In Kunene, N.dollars 21 million was allocated to drill 17 boreholes and progress stood at 90 per cent.

The capacity of the water reservoirs Kunene has been using could no longer cater to its growing population, while the Kunene River was underutilised to resolve the region’s water crisis.

“A lot of underground water was not fully utilised since the area is rocky. Water running off to the sea could be recycled if there was a programme to harvest such water,” the committee laments.

It also found that there was no synergy between the Kunene Regional Council and officials of the Agriculture Ministry in the region.

The Environment Ministry is also challenged by the committee to be involved in the drilling of boreholes to cater to wildlife, which was equally hit by the droughts.

Oshana had its own challenges.

“Although the rural communities had water, the pressure was low and that’s why the Ombonde pump stations were to be constructed in the Ompundja Constituency to boost the water pressure to areas farther away,” the committee postulates.

Ombonde pump station cost N.dollars 23 million.

The Oshana Regional Council could not account for funds meant for drought relief, and the committee referred the matter to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for further investigation.

The report does not indicate how much was allocated to the Kavango East Region, although 25 boreholes were drilled and 10 were installed.

Kavango West received N.dollars 15.8 million. The region drilled 25 boreholes for N.dollars 5.3 million of which only five were operationalised.

Of the N.dollars 19.2 million allocated to Zambezi, only N.dollars 6.2 million was spent on drilling boreholes as the “regional council could not divide the money equally as there was no time to sit and discuss”.

Otjozondjupa Region drilled 15 boreholes for N.dollars 5.9 million. A further five boreholes were rehabilitated.

The committee recommended that the government must procure drilling rigs to save costs as it was being overpriced by contractors, and Agriculture Ministry personnel must be capacitated to drill, install and rehabilitate boreholes to cut costs associated with outsourcing.

The government must also buy an adequate number of off-road vehicles for each region to enable staff to access remote water points.

“[Government must] build a water reservoir in the Kavango West and East regions to supply water to a pipeline that could be extended to villages in remote areas,” it recommended.

Source: Namibia Press Agency