THE government has finally implemented an 11-year-old Cabinet resolution to delegate rural water supply functions to regional councils.
Agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb said during the official handover ceremony in Windhoek yesterday that the decision to delegate the rural water provision function to councils was approved by Cabinet in 2007.
At the event, attended by local authority leaders and ministry officials, he not only handed over the responsibility of rural water supply, but also the provision of sanitation facilities to the regions.
"The ministry is determined to reduce the number of open defecation cases by constructing sanitation facilities in rural areas, and intensifying behavioural change initiatives through community-led total sanitation facilities. This function has now been delegated to regional councils at the regional level," !Naruseb said.
Making reference to the decentralisation policy passed in 2001, the minister admitted that the process had taken longer than envisaged. This was as a result of a number of challenges the ministry faced.
He said the delay was also as a result of the ministry having to address challenges such as securing the appropriate number of staff members to execute duties effectively and efficiently, as well as establishing and renovating office space for the officials working on the new responsibilities.
The minister added that another challenge they needed to attend to was addressing the "very poor rural water supply infrastructure in all regions".
"Although there is still room for improvement, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is also proud to inform the Namibian nation that relatively good infrastructure has thus far been developed over the past 10 years," he noted.
!Naruseb said while the rural water supply duties are now under the councils, the ministry will still be responsible for the construction of desalination plants, bulk water purification plants, bulk water transportation infrastructure, water research, and the monitoring and evaluation of water projects in the whole country.
He advised the regional councils - in carrying out their new mandate - to look out for difficulties in securing professionals in water and related engineering fields, climate change that affects the availability of water resources, uncertainty about the available water quantities, difficulties in monitoring water sources, the cost of water distribution across the country, and the cost of water treatment. Poverty is another challenge that highly affects sanitation coordination, he added.
He thus called for proper coordination among stakeholders, the efficient use of resources, and the joint planning, implementation and promotion of water storage with little evaporation.
"Intensify efforts to cut down bottlenecks to service delivery," the politician urged.