Water project brings relief to Otjimbingwe
Otjimbingwe – Otjimbingwe settlement, south of Karibib in Namibia’s Erongo region, features prominently in Namibian history.
This communal expanse of around 92 000 hectares was the first outpost of the Rhennish missionaries in their quest to spread Christianity in Namibia from the mid-1800s.
It also later became the capital of the German South-West Africa colonial administration in 1884 before the capital was moved to Windhoek. The settlement is situated at the confluence of the Swakop and Omusena rivers and it was due to its strategic location that this community was in the past a thriving farming community that used to produce food for the surrounding communities such as Karibib and Usakos.
The residents were making a living from livestock farming and gardening – growing millet and wheat in the river bed.
But the settlement, under the South African colonial administration gradually fell into decades of decline – following the construction of the Swakoppoort Dam on the Swakop River in 1978. The damming of the Swakop River near the town of Okahandja put paid to the farmers’ hopes of flourishing farming activities, as now there was a critical shortage of water, while livestock farmers had to contend with unreliable underground water supply.
Life in Otjimbingwe became unbearable due to water shortage, a situation that prompted the Erongo Regional Council and local traditional leaders to travel to Windhoek to plead their case to Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister, John Mutorwa, in 2010.
Following the meeting, Minister Mutorwa tasked the national water utility, NamWater, to urgently sort out the water problem at Otjimbingwe. The water company promptly conducted a situation assessment study, which confirmed the acute water shortage. And on August 14, 2014, NamWater held a ground-breaking ceremony for the Water Supply Project Scheme in Otjimbingwe. The R130-million project is one of the biggest of its kind in the history of the water sector in independent Namibia.
Speaking during the ground-breaking ceremony officiated by Minister Mutorwa, NamWater Chief Executive Officer, Dr Vaino Shivute, said the project seeks to improve the security of water supply to the Otjimbingwe settlement and surrounding rural communities through a system of new bulk water pipelines, pump stations and storage reservoirs. The water project will consist of pipelines network spanning a distance of 200km from the Karibib treatment plant. NamWater currently supplies bulk water to Otjimbingwe settlement and several rural farming posts, but the existing infrastructure is in poor condition and the local groundwater sources are insufficient and not sustainable.
“Significant number of rural farming posts is currently not reached by water supplies.
The current groundwater sources will not be able to cope with future demand as a result of infrequent recharge and over-abstraction of the aquifer. The condition of the borehole installations are also poor and not operational,” Shivute said.
Land and Resettlement Minister Alpheus !Naruseb, Erongo Governor Cleophas Mutjavikua, local traditional leaders and other senior government officials witnessed the event.
Karibib constituency councillor, Usiel Xoagub, who led the eight-member delegation to see Minister Mutorwa four years ago, expressed his excitement saying the project 18-month project signals the end to water shortage in Otjimbingwe and the surrounding areas.
Xoagub said plans are already afoot to revive gardening at the settlement, including a date plantation. Speaking at the same event, Chief Betuel Haraseb of Tsooxudaman Traditional Authority said: “I am happy, because since the construction of the dam (Swakoppoort Dam), the water stopped flowing to Otjimbingwe, but now the government is bringing us water.”
Minister Mutorwa said the project is part of government’s on-going developmental efforts.
“We are here to report back to you that after the meeting we had to discuss the water problem in Otjimbingwe, the government has worked a plan to address the water [situation] in Otjimbingwe,” the minister said.
The NamWater chief executive appealed to the community of Otjimbingwe to guard against vandalism of public infrastructure, especially water pipes, and appealed to them to play their part by paying for water services.
“I would like us to take note that although our government through NamWater is doing everything to develop the nation, especially in the water sector, let us recognise the fact that water provision is a costly exercise.
“Therefore, while we are fortunate to receive this assistance, let us also do our little bit to assist our government by paying for the water service provided and taking care of our infrastructure,” Shivute said, adding “Once this project is completed, we will also expect the Otjimbingwe community to start paying for their water to ensure the sustainability of water supply in this area”.