Community Grapples with Huge Bill

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By Surihe Gaomas WALVIS BAY The skyrocketing water debt situation of the Topnaar community in Aarm Street along the Kuiseb River has become a serious concern for the Topnaar Traditional Authority. Over the past five months, the community in that area has been without water as they find it very hard to settle the arrears amounting to N$25 000 owed to NamWater. In an interview with New Era recently, Chief of the Topnaar Community Seth Kootjie alluded to the precarious situation as a delicate matter. “This community is the most marginalised in the area and very few of them are working and don’t have an income to maintain the payment of the water,” said Chief Kootjie at his residence in Walvis Bay. While six of the other Topnaar community areas receive an abundant water supply under the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Aarm Street is the only area that lies directly along the NamWater pipeline that supplies the community with water. Furthermore, most of the underground water in Rooibank area has been tapped into boreholes meant for water supply to the coastal towns of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Henties Bay and Arandis. However, over the years it has become apparent that due to the lack of payment the water supply was cut off leaving a vulnerable group of ten homesteads with no other option but to beg for water from neighbouring settlements that are located along the Kuiseb River. Having been aware of the situation, Chief Kootjie said that the people at Aarm Street have never strived to contribute towards paying the mounting water bill, even after the traditional authority helped to reduce this figure. However, in an attempt to address the worrying situation, the traditional authority is currently consulting relevant stakeholders in the public and private sector to come up with ways and means to settle the water debt owed by the impoverished community. Yet Chief Kootjie admitted that efforts should also come from the community themselves to take charge of the situation, particularly the youth. “Young people must take the responsibility of caring and carrying the community and not just rely on the elderly,” said the Topnaar Chief, adding that the time has come for the younger generation to play their part to build their community. In the meantime, two councillors have been appointed in the Aarm street area with specific instructions to collect money from the community, especially from the little they make from the staple!Nara fruit. Chief Kootjie added that in an effort to seek a business response in raising the funds, the community should be seen to be helping itself. So far between N$600-N$800 has been raised since the beginning of this year, while negotiations are still ongoing. It is reported that NamWater has expressed its willingness to help the community, provided there is some kind of incentive on the part of the affected community. Possibilities are also being looked into in creating a Royal Trust Fund by the Topnaar Traditional Authority, whereby businesses can contribute a certain percentage of profits into the kitty of the marginalised Topnaar community.