Water challenges addressed at the historical symposium

Niël Terblanché

The inaugural Namibian Regional Water Symposium (NRWS) aimed at fostering collaboration of various stakeholders, will play a crucial role in addressing the country’s water-related challenges.

The event was officially launched by Calle Schlettwein, Minister of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform, in the North Central Regions, with a particular focus on the Oshana Region.

In his address at the symposium, Schlettwein highlighted the importance of the NRWS, which brings together policymakers, academia, water scientists, practitioners, researchers, and industries to discuss critical water and sanitation issues.

The historic event is presented under the theme, “Water and Sanitation for All: Achieving Sustainability and Security,” and is particularly relevant given Namibia’s status as one of the driest sub-Saharan countries, facing specific and formidable challenges in ensuring water supply security for all.

Schlettwein stressed the impact of climate change, severe droughts, and out-of-season floods on the region, emphasizing the need for innovative approaches, sound principles, and clear strategies to enhance water use efficiency, reduce pollution, and foster integrated water management.

He acknowledged the threats posed to livelihoods and the national economy by adverse climatic conditions.

He pointed to the importance of strong water resource management capacity, grounded in science and data analysis, to effectively manage both surface and groundwater resources.

The minister announced the enactment of the Water Resource Management Act, effective August 29, 2023, which will enable the Ministry to implement various measures, including public awareness campaigns, compliance monitoring, and capacity building.

To address the challenges of water supply in the North Central Regions, Schlettwein discussed the ongoing efforts to upgrade and expand the main water purification plant in Oshakati, where water rationing has become necessary due to increased demand. Rehabilitation of the ageing canal system, responsible for conveying water from the Calueque dam to Oshakati, is also underway.

He noted that Namwater has been actively involved in rehabilitating the canal, with some sections already completed.

Schlettwein announced plans to develop the Ohangwena II aquifer to augment water supply infrastructure in the region.

“These projects align with the government’s commitment to infrastructural development and service delivery, recognizing that water supply is a fundamental driver of socio-economic development,” he said.

With regard to sanitation, the Minister acknowledged that there is room for improvement in meeting specific targets in Namibia.

He said that the National Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy 2022-2027, which aims to provide basic sustainable access to sanitation for 67 percent of the population by 2027, will create safe hygienic standards for all.

Schlettwein shared the progress made in collecting data to address sanitation challenges in various constituencies while pointing to the importance of community involvement and in-house teams for constructing sanitation facilities.

He said that the upcoming Africa Sanitation (AfricaSan) Conference, will be hosted by Namibia and that the event aims to address sanitation and hygiene challenges across the continent through dialogue and collaboration among governments and stakeholders.

He expressed concern over the theft and vandalism of water infrastructure in the country, which has led to significant losses and disruptions in supply.

He called for increased law enforcement and community responsibility in protecting water infrastructure.

The Minister also called for partnership, collaboration, and collective efforts to ensure that every Namibian has access to safe water and dignified sanitation.

He acknowledged the support of the Office of the Prime Minister and UNESCO in enhancing resilience among disaster-affected communities and ensuring water access for all.

He reminded participants that water is a scarce and precious resource, and its sustainable management is crucial for the well-being of current and future generations.

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