North-western regions in N$154 million water debt
Ongwediva – Communities in the north-western regions of Namibia owe a combined N$154 million in water debts, including interest charges dating back some three years, an official said.
Vandalism of water infrastructure, unwillingness to honour debts and lack of money to pay for water consumed are some of the reasons said to have contributed to the high and mounting water debt. In addition, failure to promptly report broken pipes has also contributed to the water debt.
However, the default on debt crisis is envisaged to come to an end soon. New Era understands that a committee inclusive of rural water heads is set to meet this month to review the water subsidy policy, which is aimed at supporting vulnerable communities that cannot pay their water bills.
It is said the conference will set out the criteria to be used to identify those who will benefit from the subsidy. People in all regions countrywide are said to have already been consulted for their input.
Attempts to obtain further details about the planned conference from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry’s public relations office came up empty, as questions emailed to the ministry simply went unanswered.
Regional heads responsible for rural water supply and sanitation revealed though that although there are people who really cannot pay the monthly water bills, some people in paid employment are amongst the main defaulters.
It is further alleged that some residents purposely vandalise water pipelines to secure water, leaving those at the far end of the pipeline with limited or no water at all.
Oshikoto’s regional head for rural water supply and sanitation, Steven Tuukondjele, said the community is reluctant to report people who siphon off water secretly to avoid payment. He said it has also become a habit for people engaged in small business to indulge in water theft.
Tuukondjele advised residents to use water sparingly and said Oshikoto is at the moment not able to provide water to some communities without pipelines, because the infrastructure is broken.
He said while government is tasked with providing water to communities, it is the individual’s responsibility to honour payment.
President of the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia Katrina Shimbulu said defaulting on payment of municipal bills is a major concern to many local authorities. Shimbulu and team, who are currently visiting local authorities, realised that a high number of households’ water has been cut off, notably in the Hardap and //Karas regions.
She appealed to NamWater to subsidise water, especially to municipalities where there is underground water. “You can’t charge 100 percent for usage of water that is drawn from a town. It’s not fair. Subsidising water will reduce the water debts,” she said and appealed to NamWater to ensure their pipes are monitored and do not have underground breakages.
As is often the case NamWater spokesperson Johannes Shigwedha could not be reached for comment, as his phone went unanswered, despite several attempts to contact his office over the past week.