News and Information

Katima water crisis worsens
July 29, 2004

THE water crisis at Katima Mulilo is spiralling out of control - resulting in a myriad of problems.

Businesses have been forced to close, residents' health is at risk, poverty is on the increase and tourism is on the decline.

It has been nearly a year since NamWater reduced the town's water supply to only three hours a day because of the N$21,5 million it is owed.

Only the hospital now receives an unrationed supply of water.

The Chief Health Inspector for the Caprivi, Hokan Kangai, told The Namibian this week that although his office still planned to carry out a thorough assessment of the effects of water shortages at the town, it was obvious that residents' hygiene was being compromised.

"People are coming to work without washing themselves.

They also can't wash hands before they eat," he said.

He said health facilities were noticing an increase in food-related diseases, but it could not yet be said for certain that this was linked to hygiene.

Kangai said his office was also checking on the shelf-life of food being sold at local supermarkets.

He said the effects of the intermittent water supply on ablution facilities was creating a serious problem.

"If nature calls, you just have to wait until night when there is a little water," he said.

Acting Chairperson of the Namibian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Caprivi Branch, Tryphina Sikopo, said the water situation was exacerbating poverty.

Many unemployed residents are known to grow and sell vegetables, but with virtually no water supply, gardens were now bare.

"It is so much of a heartache for the people because the river is so close by," said Sikopo.

"People are disillusioned already.

Even tourists are just passing by," she added.

Sikopo said the business community was becoming increasingly frustrated and many had bought their own generators and water tanks to keep their produce fresh.

Since the water cuts started, both the town's butcheries have closed down, leaving only one supermarket from which to buy meat.

Several smaller shops have also stopped trading.

Although both the Town Council and NamWater claim to be in continuous discussions to solve the problem, the council has not paid a single cent to the water company since last year June.

The town council blames residents for not settling their accounts.

Municipal spokesperson Chrispin Muyoba said the situation meant that even customers who were not in arrears were suffering.

"The problem lies with the community.

The only solution is for them to pay so we can pay NamWater," he told The Namibian.

He said the limited water supply had also made it harder for the council to sell water and that customers were buying less.

NamWater's Corporate Communications Manager Johannes Shigweda said this week that the problem of non-payment for water at Katima Mulilo had been handed over to the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development for action.

"We are looking at alternative solutions and see whether we can implement them," said Shigweda, declining to divulge what these measures were.

Last weekend, the town was without water for two days when the power supply from Victoria Falls was interrupted because of a broken generator.

Since January 2002 the town has raked up a debt to NamWater of nearly N$9 million.

Its total bill of N$21,5 million includes what has been termed "historical debt".

Source: The Namibian news paper

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