Sale of Areva’s desalination plant on the cards

Windhoek: After years of negotiations to buy the N$3 billion Areva Resources Namibia desalination plant in the Erongo Region, government has revealed that substantial positive progress has been made on the potential deal. In terms of the agreed negotiation schedule it is expected that both parties will reach some finality on their offers by the end of this month.

The new development comes as government seeks to implement long-term plans and strategies to beef up water supply to the coastal towns and industries in Erongo.

When the government through the national water utility, NamWater, embarked on the journey to purchase the desalination plant, its expectations were for the plant to start supplying water by 2016.

Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, said it is Cabinet’s expectations to receive the final report on the matter from the government negotiating team via the ministerial committee on desalination, during the course of November for final consideration.

“The government through the line minister responsible for water issues in our country hereby strongly reiterates Cabinet’s standing decision that the negotiating parties must do everything possible to speed up and successfully conclude the negotiation process, as per the relevant agreements … which negotiations must ideally and practically result in the purchasing of the said desalination plant,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Areva Resources Namibia communications specialist, Sugnet Smit, yesterday told New Era that Areva looks forward to concluding the negotiations with government.

When asked on the price put on the table for the plant, she said: “We are not going to reveal any costs before we sign the agreement. It’s too sensitive to mention costs. We are waiting for them and look forward to the negotiations to be concluded.”

In September 2014, Cabinet appointed a government negotiating team consisting of senior civil servants from different government offices to handle all relevant issues relating to Cabinet’s decision to purchase the only available desalination plant in the country, which is currently privately owned.

The country is currently experiencing water shortages, with government resorting to strict measures to stem the situation.

Most, if not all the central coastal towns and businesses in Erongo have been historically supplied with water from the Kuiseb and Omdel aquifers. The aquifers’ volumes have however been decreasing over the years.

The region has no perrenial rivers.

The agreement will enable NamWater to supply its customers with water from the country’s first desalination plant, which is situated at Wlotzkasbaken, some 30km north of Swakopmund.

The plant currently supplies water to the Husab and Rössing uranium mines, and if the government buys the plant, these two mines would still be supplied with water.

The plant has a design capacity of 20 million cubic metres annually. Currently, the Erongo Region’s annual demand is at least 11 million cubic metres of water.

Negotiations for the government to acquire the desalination plant started in 2014, for its eventual handover to NamWater.