Experts Tackle Crisis Evasion

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Starting today, a high-level Task Force comprising of water engineers, hydrologists and experts from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, as well as NamWater, will meet in Mariental to work out an emergency preparedness plan that would avert future floods. The move comes after President Hifikepunye Pohamba directed the Agriculture Ministry to urgently assemble a task force to look into the issue last week. Government on Friday availed N$10 million for the restoration of municipal services destroyed by the recent floods at Mariental. The emergency assistance comes three days after Pohamba visited the town to ascertain the damage. Upon his return to Windhoek last Wednesday, the President described the situation at the town as “of great urgency” and directed Government to avail financial aid. At a press conference last Friday, Prime Minister Nahas Angula said the N$10 million would not go to individual households but the restoration of damaged public infrastructure such as sewerage, electricity and water systems as well as roads. “It’s just an emergency response to the situation so that life can return to normality. We regard this as a natural catastrophe,” he said. Angula noted the funds, to be handed over to the Governor of the Hardap Region Katrina Hanse, would be used for other priority needs identified by the town’s authorities as well. Schools are also expected to start today. The wrath of the floods at Mariental was evident after the water levels subsided, leaving devastation behind. Not only did it affect large parts of the town’s residences, but businesses as well. Areas that had great economic potential for the town were also damaged, especially the Hardap Irrigation Scheme and the Namibia Pig Farm. According to the Municipality Report handed over to the Head of State recently, over 2 000 people were displaced by the floods that affected 20 irrigation scheme owners with approximately N$50-million worth of infrastructure. In addition, 78 businesses were also under water, resulting in substantial loss in terms of income of approximately N$80 million. Since then, donations have been pouring in. But word has it that the municipality is not distributing the goods fairly and equally. However, Angula said: “there is no point in creating turf wars in such an emergency situation. “We do not need to start these small fires. The Governor needs cooperation.” Amongst others, the Task Force, led by Under Secretary of Water Affairs Piet Heyns from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry will assess the water course of the Fish River from the Hardap Dam beyond the town of Mariental, public roads, sewerage, agricultural infrastructure, water and electricity supply systems, health conditions and issues linked to the aftermath of the floods. In an interview with the national broadcaster recently, Permanent Secretary of the Agriculture Ministry Ka-hijoro Kahuure said their mission was to find mitigating measures. “It is going to be a very extensive exercise. We’ll be looking at what should be done to prevent such an incident and come up with serious recommendations like even looking at the way the whole town is structured,” said Kahuure. At the same time, the task force will also investigate and assess the actual damage on the ground and come up with recommendations that would help government determine whether or not Mariental is a disaster area.