Quest for water desalination plant delayed again


Windhoek – Namibia's Tender Board has cancelled a tender for the construction of a government-owned water desalination plant after short-listed companies failed to satisfy requirements.

Veolia Water, Abengoa Water and Acciona Agua, which had been shortlisted to build the water desalination plant, all lost out after failing to meet tender requirements.

The state-owned water desalination plant has become a priority project due to rising demand for water in Namibia's semi-arid Erongo region, where water to uranium mining companies in the region is sought.

The coastal regional towns of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Henties Bay are also experiencing rising demand for water. Demand for water has also been rising on the backdrop of dwindling output from Omaruru Delta Aquifer (Omdel), which used to be a major source of the scarce resource in the dry region.

The Tender Board of Namibia, the final arbiter in awarding of government contracts, cancelled the tender after three short-listed companies failed to satisfy requirements.

Plans for a government-owned water desalination plant, which was meant to complement an existing one owned by Areva SA, to boost water supplies to uranium mines and coastal towns have been delayed, Nehemiah Abraham, Under-Secretary for Water and Forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry said in an interview.

“The general reason given for cancelling the tender is that the bidders did not meet tender conditions. This means the companies, which we had shortlisted might not have been in a position to produce the quality water that we need,” Abraham said.

“It could also [have] been other issues such as financing but what it means is that with this type of plant we can't take any chances,” he added.

The Tender Board spokesperson, Leonie du Toit, could not provide the reasons for the cancellation of the awarding of the contract, at the time of going to print.

“The general reason we got is that the companies did not meet the requirements. It's a risk to give a tender to such companies if that is the case,” Abraham said.

Government initially planned to have construction of the country's second water desalination plant to start this year, expecting the plant to start operating in 2017.

The original plan centred around awarding a contract to a private investor capable of raising own financing and constructing the plant, under the build, operate and transfer concept after recouping investments in the form of private-public partnership.

“The plans will definitely be delayed, we have to cope with a delay rather than putting up something substandard,” he added.

A taskforce established by government would decide whether to invite fresh bids for the construction of the plant.

“There is not going to be a U-turn, we have to put up this plant, there is no other source of water anywhere in that region,” Abraham said.

Uranium mining companies in Namibia, the world's fifth largest producer of the nuclear fuel, say the water supply situation from the existing Areva plant is not certain. Rising demand for water is likely to push up prices of the resource to uranium mines, the companies say.

April 2014
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