Mariental Remains Vulnerable – Expert

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Now that the “big storm” of Mariental has blown itself out and what remains is nothing but a nightmare memory and finger pointing, an expert says there is very little that could be done to the dam to avoid floods in the years to come. Retired Hydro-geologist JÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼rgen Kirchner says whether or not some people feel that the calamity might be attributed to nature or sheer human ignorance, it is a historical fact that leaves one with little option to change things. To start with, there is nothing that could be done to the dam. “It cannot be built any higher, the only thing that could be done is to manage the water levels by monitoring.” This devastating flood that resulted from the rains can never be said to have come without warning as previous cases of 1972, 1989 and 2000 would have served as enough warning and solutions to prevent future disasters would have been undertaken. Surprisingly, the municipality still continued to allow people to build homes in obviously perilous locations, said retired Kirchner. The only possible solution that would prevent future recurrence of such floods would be measuring how much water the dam must have before the rain season starts. Should this have been the case, it would be unlikely that rainwater would have exceeded the dam’s capacity and the risk of floods would have been avoided. “The decision must be made on how much (the capacity) water the dam must contain at the beginning of the rain season.” Though not pointing a finger, Kirchner feels there is no need to blame it on the weather as Namwater would have known how much water to keep or release from the dam at the onset of the rainy season. This week, Chief Executive Officer of Namwater Dr Vaino Shivute maintained that his company could not take the risk of decreasing the levels of water in the dam because the rain conditions in the country are unpredictable. Some members of the public suggested that perhaps building a canal that would channel away water from the residential and business areas would be a solution. However, the expert says that alone would not prevent floods. Actually, the Fish River could be sufficient if only the weed in it is cleared. Previously, there was a suggestion that the weed in the river be removed as it interferes with the fast and free flow of water in the right direction. Further, the town council was advised not to build anything on the western side of the main highway but they allowed the building of houses and business structures. “The Mariental town Council disregarded instructions from Water Affairs, there is also some fault at the municipality.” Kirchner suggests that the main road be raised by two metres in order to protect it from flooding and blocking the flow of traffic, as was the case during the past weekend. Otherwise, the town remains vulnerable to major floods as evidenced by the current situation.