A monumental oversight by the Hifikepunye Pohamba administration has led to a situation where Government does not own the land around the multi-billion Neckartal Dam, which is expected to be completed by October this year.
Government officials, who did not want to be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media, told the Windhoek Observer this week that the land around the N$5,7 billion Neckartal Dam, belongs to an unnamed private individual.
The sources said government will probably have to pay a premium for the land in order to start an envisaged 5,000 hectare irrigation project that is expected to boost food security in the country.
“The construction of the dam is being completed this year, but government still has no land where the irrigation projects will be taking place. The current land there belongs to a private person,” the source said.
Managing Director of Consulting engineering company Knight Piésold, Gunter Leicher, refused comment when asked who owns the land around the Neckartal Dam project.
“The ministry should have the details pertaining to that. We don’t have any idea of what they are planning,” Leicher said.
Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Permanent Secretary, Percy Misika, said that he is aware of the challenges pertaining to irrigation land and the camp where the workers’ settlement is situated, but referred further questions to the Chief hydrogeologist, Henry Beukes, who did not respond to calls or texts to his mobile.
“I am aware of the matter, but what I understand is that some negotiations were going on between the person with ownership of the land,” Misika said.
Government expects farmers to grow grapes, dates and other vegetables, amongst others, under irrigation once construction of the dam has been completed.
A tender for the first phase of the irrigation project, which was advertised last year, was cancelled when the Public Procurement Act replaced the long-standing Tender Board Act.
Phase 1 of the project covers 1,880 hectares (ha) of land. That land will be divided into three sections namely commercial, medium-scale farmers and small-scale farmers.
The commercial section of 1,116 ha is set aside for an investor who will be responsible for the irrigation of the total land, while medium-scale farmers will share 420 ha and the small-scale farmers 344 ha.
The Neckartal Dam, believed to be Namibia’s biggest dam, is said to be three times bigger than the Hardap Dam near Mariental in the Hardap region.
The dam is being built some 40 kilometres north-west of Keetmanshoop in the Fish River in the Snyfontein area by an Italian company, Salini Impregilo.
The project cost was initially estimated at N$2,8 billion, but has since ballooned to N$5,7 billion because of several delays, according to recent media reports.
The dam is one of the country’s single biggest investments since independence.