Unfinished pipeline causes critical water shortage

15 March 2019 | Disasters

A decision by the Oshikoto regional council to extend the Ondangwa-Omuntele pipeline has left the Omuntele area with a critical water shortage.

A further N$12 million is needed to complete the project to ensure that people and animals in the Omuntele grazing area are supplied with safe drinking water.

Due to prolonged drought and damage by elephants, livestock herders in the Omuntele farming area and inhabitants in the surrounding areas are in dire need of water.

The area has good grazing from last year's rainfall, but there is no water.

According to herder Leo Matheus the situation is very critical.

He said that deep in the grazing area there is enough grass, but no water. Near Omuntele, where there is piped water, there is no grass.

“Thousands of cattle are being driven up to 20 kilometres to come to water points near Omuntele. You have to wake up as early as 02:00 to take your cattle to water points.

Due to the high demand, sometimes you can go and spend the whole day there. The water has no pressure to cater for the thousands of cattle,” Matheus said.

Josef Shakela said he has 56 cattle at Okuma and there is enough grazing, but unfortunately there is no water. He said Okuma is about 60 kilometres from Omuntele and he supplies his cattle with water from there.

“After a day I drive to Okuma to supply my cattle with water. I take big drums of water in the bakkie and trailer to take water there. At the cattle post there are water tanks which I fill. I have to take at least three trips for the water to be sufficient,” said Shakela.

He said it is costing him a lot of money, but he has no other option, but to save his cattle.

'These are our treasures'

A farmer, Leo Thomas, said when the government took too long to respond to the farmers' call to have piped water, in 2007 the community raised money and installed a pipeline to Omutomboli which is about 40 kilometres from the Ondangwa-Omuntele pipeline, but their initiative failed after the pipeline could not provide them with water due to low pressure.

“This was just our own initiative due to desperation and we did not consult experts. We paid the money to NamWater to have our line connected, but later we found out that the pressure was low and it could not supply us with water. Farmers are desperate and they can do anything to get water,” Thomas said.

He said the situation is very serious and if nothing happens many will give up, due to the lengthy drought.

He said many are already planning to relocate their cattle to their houses, where there is no food, due to the heavy financial costs currently being incurred.

“These are our treasures. We invested a lot in them and losing them might take our lives as well. The majority of the farmers are senior citizens and if the situation is not getting any better we might lose them together with their livestock,” Thomas added.

Budget insufficient

According to Omuntele constituency councillor, Sacky Nangula, the pipeline project initially entailed 60 kilometres from Omuntele to Onadhi, but was extended 20 kilometres to Okuma.

The project budget thus proved insufficient.

In 2014 the water ministry commenced with the construction of the 60-kilometre Ondangwa-Omuntele pipeline, which was expected to be completed in 2015.

The project included the construction of bulk pipelines, elevated storage reservoirs, a ground or concrete reservoir, a booster pump station and manifold water meter installations.

Nangula said soon after the construction commenced, the habitants of Okuma and surrounding areas started complaining that the water must be extended up to their area.

“After community members of Okuma started demanding for the extension of the project, I took their grievances to the regional council. The regional council approved the 20-kilometre extension to the project,” Nangula said.

“It is unfortunate that only the project was extended, but the project budget was not adjusted. This later affected the project, as the money was not able to finish the project. I understand that we currently need over N$12 million to finish the project.”

Nangula said even though major work has been completed, the pipeline could not be connected.

The ministry did not respond to queries.

The project was implemented by the Oshikoto regional council under the Namibian Water Supply and Sanitation Programme special account, supported by the European Commission, to support the functions of the water and sanitation sector.

The programme, which ended in 2017, was aimed at improving water security, by ensuring coordinated planning and the implementation of rural and bulk water supply infrastructure, and the sanitation policy and programme.

It was therefore aimed at upgrading existing water infrastructure, constructing new water supply infrastructure, improving the management of existing water sources and enhancing transboundary water cooperation.

While delivering his 2018/19 financial year budget motivation statement, water minister Alpheus !Naruseb said that in order to achieve the objectives of the water programme, the ministry needed over N$991 million to complete the construction of Ondangwa-Omuntele pipeline extension and the King Kauluma-Omutsegwonime water supply scheme in the Oshikoto Region, as well as the construction of the water supply scheme for the displaced Kavango East communities (the Shamvhura to Shamangorwa pipeline).


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