Life giving water

26 October 2012

The Cabinet announcement that Government will subsidise water supply to roughly 84,000 impoverished households comes as welcome relief to a thirsty land.


Water has increasingly become a vexed question in this country because of the exorbitant price NamWater charges for the commodity.

The high water tariffs have resulted in a situation where water has almost become a luxury.

Here we should not need to repeat the obvious i.e. that water is the most basic prerequisite for human life and existence.

Furthermore, for over half a century now most of the world has regarded access to clean potable water as a fundamental human right.
The U.N. General Assembly formalised this principle in a resolution it passed in July 2010.

The resolution recognises “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”.

From what we gather, Government mainly aims to target 84,000 rural households as beneficiaries of the N$23.5 million annual subsidy for water.

Over the past two decades we have had far too many incidents where NamWater has cut off the water supply to rural communities because of non-payment of water bills.

This severely threatened the already precarious existence of these communities that depend on water not only for household use but also for their economic livelihoods in the form of livestock farming.

This has often provoked furious debate about the morality of commercialising a commodity that is as essential for sustaining human life as the air we breathe.
We of course have to balance this against NamWater’s need to somehow cover the cost of bringing us healthy clean water and at the same time increasing and expanding the water supply.

In an arid desert country such as Namibia the cost of supplying sufficient water for everyone’s needs does not come cheap.
NamWater has to spend substantial amounts on building and maintaining water infrastructure, storing water in dams and reservoirs as well as transporting the precious commodity through pipelines to where it is most needed.

In addition, it has to engage in a never-ending quest to seek out new sources of water by for example drilling new boreholes.
Because of Namibia’s comparatively low rainfall, new sources of water supply will always remain circumscribed.

It is partly for this reason that the country has had to resort to extreme measures such as investing vast amounts in desalination plants.

The fact that institutions such as the World Bank now refuse to fund new dam projects because of a grossly misconceived political, environmental and supposedly human rights agenda does not make matters any easier for countries such as Namibia.
The taxpayers of this country will have to fork out the N$23 million Government intends to spend on subsidising water supply to the poor, but this is money well spent.

That is more than one can say about many other programmes the Government spends money on.
A pertinent case in point is the helicopter the Namibia Police recently purchased from the French for God knows how many millions.

Both the Inspector-General of the Namibian Police, Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga and Permanent Secretary of Safety and Security Ndeutala Angolo attended the official handover of the helicopter at the Africa Aerospace & Defence Show in South Africa.

Ndeitunga waxed lyrical about the technological marvels of the helicopter and its efficiency while Angolo stood at his side smiling like the cat that just licked the cream.

The police have three of these helicopters, but how many people have actually seen the helicopters pursuing murder suspects, tracking cattle rustlers or for that matter engaging in any other crime fighting activities.
NamPol apparently sometimes uses the helicopters for emergency relief during floods in the north.

But usually it apparently has to suspend operations after one or two weeks when the ministry has exhausted its fuel budget.

Spending money on subsidising water for the poor is unquestionably a far higher priority than spending tens of millions of dollars on luxurious helicopters in an impoverished country.

Let’s not fool ourselves – there are people in this country that are so poor that they cannot afford to pay for water and genuinely need assistance.
We, the ‘haves’ should not begrudge the ‘have nots’ whatever life-line we can throw them to secure the most basic commodity any person needs to remain alive.


 tortise consultancy


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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