Southern Africa: Namibia-Botswana Desalination Plant Still On Cards

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(File photo).
6 February 2018

Windhoek — The initial plans to jointly set up a multi-billion-dollar pipeline that will draw water from the Atlantic Ocean and be shared as desalinated water by Namibia and Botswana is still on the cards.

This was reaffirmed by visiting Botswana President Lieutenant-General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who is in Namibia on a two-day state visit.

Mid-2016, President Hage Geingob revealed during a function held at State House that the two governments were in discussions to pump desalinated water from the Atlantic Ocean through a pipeline that will stretch to Botswana.

At the time, Geingob had said it is a regional project that will be commissioned between the Namibian and Botswana governments to tap water from the sea.

However, he did not divulge more details about the project.

During the signing of the boundary treaty between Namibia and Botswana yesterday, Khama gave the affirmation that both countries are looking into the possibility of investing in a desalination plant.

The signed treaty will jointly govern the use of the shared water resources between the two countries along the three rivers, namely, the Kwando, Linyanti and Chobe.

Both Namibia and Botswana are semi-arid countries that face regular water crises that threaten the livelihood of their citizens.

"We are exploring that possibility of a desalination plant. Both Namibia and Botswana are very challenged when it comes to water resources. Both of us, for example this year, are not experiencing good rains. There is going to come a time when the rain or rivers coming from the north will not provide sufficient water. So, we are exploring the possibility of setting up a common desalination plant," he revealed.

However, he was quick to say that setting up such a project will be very costly - without mentioning any figure for the mooted project.

Khama said both countries are looking at the possibility of sharing the costs since it will be a shared project.

"We could not for example pump sea water through a pipeline to a desalination plant because the salt water will degrade the pipe," he noted.

Therefore, Khama feels the best option would be to set up the plant in Namibia and then the treated water will be transferred to Botswana.

He called on the relevant ministries responsible for water to look into the issue of setting up a plant as a matter of urgency, seeing that both countries are in dire need of water.

Botswana's capital city Gaborone is equally struggling with a water crisis, just as Namibia's capital Windhoek.

Gaborone's major source of water, which is the Gaborone Dam, has often been reported to have run dry.

Most of the city's water has to be piped from the Zambezi and Okavango river basins.

In 2004, Botswana and Namibia were cosignatories along with other states of the Zambezi river basin of an agreement establishing the Zambezi Watercourse Commission to manage the riparian resources of the Zambezi.

Khama says the signed treaty is to reaffirm the common borders between the two countries.

"There are a lot of wetlands on the northern border of Zambezi Region. But it was never really clear to either party where the border of the flat plains on the river is. So that's why this reaffirmation hopes to remove any doubt and mark the border so that people who commonly operate in those areas - be it the members of the security forces or the general population - will know where the border lies," Khama said.

Geingob welcomed the signed treaty, saying people of both countries can now move freely with their goods.

"Let's welcome it and applaud the two countries for this. With this treaty we are now freer. We can move around. I am very happy to sign this treaty," Geingob said.

Both heads of state have committed to continue strengthening the existing bilateral relations between Namibia and Botswana in various sectors such as energy, trade, education, health, environment, defence, the Trans-Kalahari railway line and the Botswana dry port in Walvis Bay.

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