Nam keeps Bots waiting over desalination project

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By Timo Shihepo

Windhoek – Namibia is yet to decide whether to include Botswana in the much-needed desalination project or to embark on the project on its own.

The Southern Times is reliably informed that Botswana has been pushing for the two countries to start the process that would lead to the construction of a desalination plant at Walvis Bay. However, according to sources, Namibia has been dilly-dallying due to financial constraints currently gripping the economy. The project, which was first mooted in 2016, would draw water from the Atlantic Ocean at the coast of Namibia through the country’s capital, Windhoek, to the capital of Botswana, Gaborone, should the two countries agree to work together.

Windhoek and Gaborone are equally struggling with a water crisis and former Botswana President Lieutenant-General Seretse Khama Ian Khama during his visit to Namibia earlier this year labelled the desalination plant a “matter of urgency”.

The venture, which, if agreed upon, would be a government-to-government project, is estimated to be worth more than R15 billion and has the blessings of both President Hage Geingob and President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

However, Percy Misika, the permanent secretary in Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry, revealed to The Southern Times that Namibia is yet to decide but dismissed claims that the country is stalling the project because of financial constraints.

“The technical committee on water supply security has submitted a draft for water supply in the central region of the country.  In that plan, it includes the possibility of having a desalination plant, which is yet to decide whether it is for Namibia only or to supply to Botswana as well. That plan was formulated last year and money for a feasibility study was secured from the German government,” he said.

Misika added that the study, which is underway, will determine the future of the desalination plant.

“The study is for 18 months and it’s currently underway so it’s not fair to say that the project is being held up by the Namibian government when in fact we did not even submit a financial request to the treasury. The technical committee still has to submit a final draft to the ministerial committee, which then has to decide if the desalination plant is viable or not,” said Misika.

Botswana’s Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kefentse Mzwinila, could not be reached for comment, as his phone went answered. Botswana High Commissioner to Namibia, Tshenolo Modise, did not respond to questions sent to her.

During his visit to Namibia this year, Masisi said, as a country, they have exhausted all possible options to increase water supply and they are now only left with the option of looking at the ocean.

“In Botswana, we are water-starved and challenged. After we drilled boreholes and prayed for rain it is still not enough. What do you do after that? You go to the ocean because after the ocean there is nowhere to go after that. We want to join on that desalination project and we will see how viable it is to bring water to Botswana. We are really pleased to be given an opportunity at Walvis Bay to get access to the sea,” he said at the time.

During the visit, Geingob said Botswana and Namibia are both very dry countries, big size and small population, therefore, “we face common problems when it comes to water. Desalination project should not be off the table.”

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