Namibia: Hardap Irrigation Cuts Spark Panic

RESIDENTS of Mariental dependant on the Hardap Dam have been thrown in a state of panic after the governor announced plans to close water for irrigation.

Hardap governor Esme Isaack recently announced that NamWater will stop providing water to irrigation schemes due to the low level of the Hardap Dam.

About 1 000 households benefit directly or indirectly from the Hardap Green Scheme project and will be negatively affected if water supplies are cut off. Farmers as well as workers at the Hardap scheme are concerned about the decrease in the dam level.

"This has a ripple effect as the whole scheme supports the town, Kaap Agri, Agra, the cooperatives and the banks. Everyone is worried," said Nerine Blankestein, a farmer in the area.

Farm worker Mpunza Joseph expressed fear for the future if water supplies are discontinued.

"How will the farmers pay us? We are not even sure if they will pay us this month," said Joseph.

The chairperson of the Hardap Farmers Association, Dawie de Klerk, however, said there was hope despite the low dam level.

"The fact that the dam only has 6% water, means there is capacity for more water, and if there is an inflow, we will be able to handle it," added De Klerk.

He said the current 6,6% water level in the dam is sufficient to provide water for consumption and irrigation until March 2021, in the case that there is no inflow in the dam.

"There are a lot of rumours and opinions about the dam but the fact is that the cut-off point of the raw water delivery to the Hardap scheme is 4,5% of capacity. If the dam level reaches 4,5%, we will still have portable water until March 2021, in case there is no inflow. The reports that the dam's sluices or water delivery sluices will be closed are not true," said De Klerk.

According to De Klerk, farmers in the area have committed to stop production on 40% of their irrigated land to rescue the situation until the end of January.

The rain season usually runs from the end of January until April.

"We are looking forward to the rainy season and also to 2021, so chances that the town will be without water is zero. But if there is no inflow into the dam, it will be detrimental. The whole community will be affected; the whole socio-economic system of the Hardap region will be affected," said De Klerk.

Governor Isaack yesterday told The Namibian that the regional office conducted several meetings with stakeholders last year when it was decided that when the dam level reaches 6%, water supply to irrigation will be stopped.

The governor said initially, they planned to stop supply by the end of December, but due to savings measures implemented by the producers, the date might be extended to the end of this month.

"The decision taken during our meetings is still binding. Mr De Klerk must not mislead the inhabitants. If there is any inflow into the dam before end of January then there will be an extension for the cut-off to irrigation. But if there is no inflow into the dam, then the cut-off of water supply will be implemented," she said.

She added that once supply to the irrigation scheme is stopped, there will be sufficient water until the end of March 2021 for Mariental.

"If the level of the dam goes up to 6%, then NamWater will cut off water supply for irrigation end of January. I was informed by NamWater that there is no inflow. Although there was rain in the catchment areas, the water did not reach the dam," she said.

Isaack also said once irrigation water is not available anymore, more stress will be put on the potable water system. "For this reason, NamWater is installing a booster station on the potable water system to be able to supply more potable water than normal. This will, however, not be complete by end of January 2020, resulting in difficulty to supply sufficient potable water as from February until the booster station is finished," she said.

* Lorato Khobetsi-Slinger and Treasure Kauzuu-Tjizera are information officers at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in the Hardap region.

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