Land, water projects stalled

A parliamentary committee has slammed the government for expecting NamWater to bear full responsibility for water infrastructure in the entire country.

29 November 2017 | Infrastructure

Land development and the supply of potable water to rural communities are, according to a newly released report, utterly stagnated.

The report of the National Council's Standing Committee on Habitat on the progress made on rural water supply and land servicing says at July this year, N$713 million was owed to NamWater, of which N$417 million was due from government and local authorities.

Water points in rural areas owe NamWater N$209 million and accrued interest totals N$77 million.

The committee yesterday tabled its report that surveyed all the regions, except Erongo, in the National Council.

NamWater left behind

The committee is also of the view that NamWater is left behind while other parastatals repeatedly receive funds.

“The total amount of money NamWater received from government since its inception in 1997 was N$227 million; an amount that could easily be dwarfed by sums of money other government entities had so far received.

“There was no point in time where the government poured money into the refurbishment of water infrastructure in the country. Therefore, expecting NamWater to replenish the water infrastructure in the entire country on its own is a far-fetched proposition.”

NamWater also receives no budgetary allocation like other parastatals.

The debts accumulated had hindered the supply of water to many communities that accessed water through pipelines.

The committee said the current debts emanated from a number of issues including the reluctance of water point users to pay bills, water point committees that abandoned their duties, and failure of public entities such as schools and clinics, to pay bills. They also write of the 'sabotage mentality' where infrastructure is vandalised.

Most towns also raised concerns that infrastructure was outdated.

“Many of these pipes were installed in the pre-independence era and their sieve-like state means that they also contributed to the ever-accumulating NamWater bills.”

In Keetmanshoop, for instance, the porous pipes accounted for 20% water loss every month, which amounted to N$600 000 per month.

It was also found that the alkaline levels rendered much of the water in many parts of the northern regions undrinkable and was present in boreholes in regions such as Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati, Kunene and Zambezi.

Land shortage

While the findings in most regions of northern Namibia were dominated by water issues, the findings from central to southern Namibia were dominated by land and land servicing concerns.

The need for land had seen land grabbing and conflicts erupt at certain towns in Namibia.

For instance, the migration of newcomers to Eenhana was rated at 1 250 people monthly. These newcomers would settle on land vacated by others and the town would then be confronted by the challenge of providing sanitation facilities.

One of the reasons that hindered land servicing initiatives in many regions is that towns are surrounded by commercial farms and cannot expand to accommodate the increasing number of new residents.

“The impact of commercial farms was vehemently observed in the Omaheke, Hardap, Otjozondjupa and //Karas regions,” says the report.

For instance 75% of the Hardap Region's land was commercial farmland, 15% was national parks while only 10% was communal land.

According to the report, the arrival of laid-off farmworkers in towns is fuelled by the increase in the minimum wage. “The situation had seen farmworkers flock to towns at an alarming rate,” the report says.

It was recommended that government buy more commercial land to allow towns to expand.

No money

The committee also blasted housing projects.

The lack of funds brought a halt to the Build Together project in Aroab and the Mass Housing project in Keetmanshoop was also delayed due to budget cuts. In Omuthiya land servicing activities were slowed down as from the 2016/17 financial year and in Gobabis, land reserved for the mass housing project had since been shelved.

The servicing of 250 plots for low-cost housing in Eenhana could not be completed and Extension 15 in Outapi could not be fully serviced with electricity and sewerage.

Also, in Opuwo the Mass Housing contractors had downed tools due to non-payment.

At Nkurenkukru, the budget cuts ensued with swatches of plots at Kahenge that remained partially serviced with no electricity and 200 houses under the Shack Dwellers' Federation could also not be completed at the town.

In many instances, the committee noted with horror that vandalism takes place at these projects with the most notable damage seen at Keetmanshoop.

In Rundu, the formalising of settlements had slowed down while in Katima Mulilo the town needed more money to complete outstanding projects.

Town councils also raised concern with the prolonged process of acquiring land for servicing.

The dissatisfaction with the current procurement process was raised in Keetmanshoop, Kavango East and Katima Mulilo.

They suggested that the town planning activities be decentralised.

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