Officials Propose Anti-Flood Measures

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By Surihe Gaomas MARIENTAL Deepening and clearing debris from the river bed while erecting an additional dam and the relocation of the flood affected area are the three main proposals that residents of Mariental came up with as precautionary measures that would prevent future flooding. It appears from the sentiments expressed by flood affected residents that the time is long overdue to find short and long term measures to avert another natural disaster. Word has it that the latest flood was the fourth and the most worst in terms of magnitude as it has displaced thousands of families and caused extensive damage to property. The floods also severely affected the region’s main breadbasket, the Hardap Irrigation Scheme, as well as the Namibia Pig Farm where hundreds of piglets drowned. However, after President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s visit on Wednesday to the affected town the flood prevention proposals should first seriously be considered by Cabinet, after which a report-back will be given to the Governor of the Hardap Region Katrina Hanse. While there has been finger-pointing looking for possible a scapegoats, the Governor at a recent meeting urged the community to rather focus on possible solutions. “We need to refrain from the blame game and come up with serious discussions in solving the flood issue,” she said. Yet, despite the tense discussions, proposals were given that the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry urgently looks into controlling the growth of weed in order to ensure the free-flow of water from the Fish River below the Hardap Dam. “We suggest that earthmoving equipment be brought into the town to widen and deepen the river,” said one resident. However a senior official at the agriculture ministry stated that although this would be a viable option it would be a costly exercise. However, the community was hopeful that the Government after revising its proposals would budget for reconstruction of the town. Governor Hanse also informed the Head of State about the suggestion of building an additional dam or canal. Yet it becomes apparent that this would further mean that Government has to cough up additional financial resources, which in most cases are scarce. Another main concern expressed by business owners and farmers is that on a regional level the town’s municipality will not be able afford the high costs resulting from damaged infrastructure. Earlier this week Chief Executive Officer of the Mariental Municipality Paul Nghiwilepo expressed the same concern. “We cannot afford to rehabilitate our infrastructure, unless the Government assists us,” he said. With this being the fourth and worst flood tragedy, residents felt that the town’s municipality should also look into the relocation of the flood affected area of town to another piece of land altogether. Looking at the total damages, this proposal is seen as a viable option in the future. The release of water from the Hardap Dam resulted in the overflow of the rivers and flooding a large portion of the town. This led to the displacement of 2 000 people, affecting 20 irrigation scheme owners with approximately N$50-million worth of infrastructure, as well as damaging water and sanitation supply. Furthermore, 78 businesses were under water resulting in a substantial loss of income of approximately N$80 million. In the meantime, the three proposals are seen as the only source of hope for the affected families in avoiding the likelihood of another flood coming their way.