Govt oscillates on desalination plant

25 January 2019
Government is still to decide whether to build a new desalination plant at the coast or buy the existing one owned by Orano, the newly-appointed NamWater CEO, Abraham Nehemia, told the Windhoek Observer this week.
Another option is a joint desalination project between Namibia and Botswana, although Nehemia said this was a longer-term plan.
“All these are government projects. All options are on the table,” he said when asked by the Windhoek Observer whether building a desalination plants is on top of his agenda as the new water utility CEO.
Orano has in the past offered the desalination plant to the government for US$200 million, a price the government rejected as being too high. 
Media reports last year said the government of Botswana was also keen on buying the plant and planned to pump water to its capital city, Gaborone.
Nehemia said all desalination water plans by the government are long-term projects to ensure security of supply to Namibia.
With water supply increasingly becoming a concern especially at the coast and the central regions, Nehemia faces a daunting task as the head of the state bulk Water Supply Company.
The Windhoek Observer reported in September last year that government has opted to construct its own desalination plant using proceeds from the N$10 billion that it has requested from China.
The long-term move, which is unlikely to bring the much-needed relief to the existing water woes faced by the central region which has started using boreholes as supply dams run dry, is expected to drag further the issue of securing consistent water supplies.
In an exclusive interview, Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein, told the Windhoek Observer then that government will not be buying the Orano-owned desalination plant as earlier suggested and neither will it develop a desalination plant with eastern neighbour, Botswana, which has expressed interest in jointly developing a new plant with Namibia.
“The Botswana project is still in its infancy so we need to consider our own apart from the Botswana one, which will come later,” Schlettwein said.
He said construction of a desalination plant was identified as one of the bulk infrastructure projects that will be funded under the N$10 billion facility from China over five years.
Two months later, NamWater called for bids from companies to submit proposals for financial, technical and legal transaction advisory consultation for the potential acquisition of the Orano Desalination Plant.
The plant has a design capacity of 54 million cubic meters and was commissioned in 2013.  Water from the plant is supplied to mines in the Erongo Region as well as Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.
Nehemia (58), was previously Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and a board member for NamWater for close to three years, will serve a five-year term.
He replaced Vaino Shivute who retired last year.
“I am engaging the staff at the moment. I am having three briefings a day. I will do that for the whole of January,” he said about his new job.
During its 20th anniversary celebrations held in November, NamWater said poor rainfall, increasing urban population, increased economic activities and the economic downturn were part of the problems the company has faced for the last two decades.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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