Neckartal-affected locals 'paid peanuts'
17 March 2020 | Local News
“The movement of the people was impacted by the construction of the dam. People were paid a little money that was peanuts,” Boois said.
Communities were relocated to make way for the construction of the dam, which was handed over to government by contractor Salini Impregilo last week. Cedric Thomas, a traditional councillor in the Snyfontein area, in which the dam was constructed, also decried government's approach to compensating landowners who were affected.
Chief amongst Thomas' claims was income lost from normal farming activities. “We were not paid for the income from farming activities we undertook that had to be put aside for the construction of the dam. The Fish River was a major source of income for farmers,” Thomas said.
The construction of the dam also gave rise to increasing incidences of human-wildlife conflict, said Thomas. “The construction of the dam meant that certain wild animals lost their habitat. We lost goats, chickens, donkeys, cows and horses. Livestock to the value of N$164 000 was lost. The ministry told us that Snyfontein does not fall in a conservancy and they cannot compensate for livestock lost,” Thomas said. According to him, the problem persisted especially between March and October 2016. Thomas also said government promised to prioritise the inhabitants of Snyfontein with regard to jobs. “At Snyfontein no project was initiated following the dam project. We were told that the people of Snyfontein would be prioritised when it came to jobs at the dam site. Only 15 people from Snyfontein were employed.” Agriculture ministry executive director Percy Misika said the affected farmers would have to put their grievances in writing, so that the ministry could assess their claims.
“All of the 18 farmers, except one, was compensated in line with government's compensation policy,” he said. According to Misika, government used the communal compensation policy to pay affected farmers. The dam will be handed over to NamWater at a later stage, he said, adding that water levels must first reach 45 metres, while mechanical and electrical testing of facilities must be completed.
The dam is currently 10.5% full, he said.
The dam is the largest in Namibia, and when full, it will have a storage volume of 857 million cubic metres of water. The dam will stretch more than 38 kilometres upstream and has a circumference, at full capacity, of more than 290 kilometres.
Government spent N$5.5 billion on its construction, while a further N$1.3 million was spent to acquire land meant for the irrigation project. The land will soon be registered with the deeds office in the land reform ministry, Misika added.