Government pleads for private investment in water sectorBy: CATHERINE SASMAN
NAMIBIA is hoping for a strong commitment for long-term research and future investment programmes for the development of the water and sanitation sector after the much-anticipated water investment indaba kicked off in Windhoek yesterday.
Close to 300 participants arrived at the almost N$3 million event which is a first of its kind in a country in dire need to make water accessible and affordable through appropriate technological cooperation with national, regional and international potential investment partners.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba who attended the high-level Swapo Party national policy conference next to the water investment event, said the development of water resources and networking should be an outflow of the meeting.
Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, said the conference was called to collectively address the increasing demand and pressure on the country’s water resources and sanitation facilities.
Namibia is the most arid country in sub-Saharan Africa. It has three perennial rivers – the Kavango and Kunene Rivers in the north, and Orange River in the south – which it shares with neighbouring countries with which the country has joint management and cooperation agreements.
There are several inter-State water commissions to manage the perennial rivers. These include the Orange-Senqu River Commission (Orasecom), the Permanent Okavango River Basin Commission (Okacom), and the Zambezi River Basin.
There are no permanent rivers in the interior of Namibia, and much of the groundwater is brackish and not suitable for human consumption, or for agricultural and industrial purposes.
Namibia has embarked on a number of alternative strategies like desalination of sea water.
But the country is paying a high price for the supply of usable water and has to rely on expensive infrastructure like dams to collect occasional flood water, drilling of boreholes, the construction of pipelines and canals over long distances from the perennial rivers, as well as expensive technologies for reclamation and re-use.
What is pushing up the water supply costs further is the fact that Namibia has to import all equipment, plants, machinery parts and spares to extract and channel water to the consumer.
Expenditure on water supply and sanitation infrastructure for the 2011/12 financial year was more than N$553 million.
The required investment for the replacement, upgrading and expansion of existing water supply infrastructure for the next five years is an estimated N$3,7 billion.
The conference is an attempt to get private investment into the water sector, which has up to now been practically non-existent.
The three-day event will explore and showcase business opportunities and technologies for industry players; to see if financial resources can propel the water and sanitation sector business development; and to provide an interactive platform for industry players and related organisations for networking and information exchanges.
It will also focus on the emerging global trends and new innovations in water-based industries, and encourage potential entrepreneurs to tap into the opportunities in the sector.