THE Neckartal Dam is ready to collect water, even though it is only set for completion in mid-July this year.
Fabrizio Lazzarin, project manager of Salini Impregilo SpA, the Italian builder awarded the N$2,8 billion contract to build the dam near Keetmanshoop, said this in a briefing to the permanent secretaries of the ministries of finance and agriculture as well as the acting permanent secretary of the National Planning Commission (NPC), who were visiting the building site yesterday.
"There is no risk to construction," he told the officials.
However, Eric Britton of Knight Piésold consulting engineers said it was difficult to pinpoint the completion date of the dam.
"Small works trip us up," Britton said, suggesting that the final touches to the dam could be completed only by October.
He also expressed concern over the vetting of the dam's electrical equipment, which NamPower still has to do, hinting this may delay the full completion of the dam.
But the agriculture ministry's director of water supply and sanitation coordination, Leonard Niipare, said this "really is not a risk" that would impact the completion date of the dam.
"We are not yet in the risk bracket, although we are running against time," he said, adding that the bulk electricity supplier had already been provided with the dam's electrical equipment specifications.
Finance permanent secretary Ericah Shafudah said government has paid Salini's outstanding invoices of N$600 million, and has reached agreement with the contractor to pay its invoices for work done on time.
In the past, Salini halted operations at the dam site over late or non-payment by government.
Shafudah also wanted to know whether government had the capacity and was prepared to maintain the dam after its completion.
This would not be a problem, as four government engineers, including one from NamWater, were involved in the project since the start, Niipare responded.
Agriculture permanent secretary Percy Misika said the cost of the dam might escalate to N$5,7 billion, adding that government has already paid N$3,2 billion to Salini and the consulting engineer.
"The amount still to be paid depends on the actual work to be done. Therefore, it could be more, or less," he added.
Made from roller-compacted concrete and standing about 80 metres high, the Neckartal Dam will harness water from the Fish River to produce hydro-electricity and create a reservoir capable of holding 857 million cubic metres of water, which would be used to irrigate 5 000 hectares of land being developed for agricultural production.
A crossing and a pump station, along with the intake structure, will be built 13km downstream from the dam. The water will flow through an 8,7km steel pipe with a diametre of 1,100mm to reach a reservoir that is part of the project.