Row Erupts at Mariental

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By Hoandi !Gaeb Mariental A row has erupted between the Mariental Chamber of Commerce and the government appointed Mariental Flood Task Force (MFTF) over what the chamber terms “government’s lack of desire” to address the problems of the businesspeople at the town who were affected by the flood. Chairperson of the Mariental Chamber of Commerce, Marietha Grobler says it is clear from the behaviour of the task force over the last three months that it is not serious in addressing the problems of Mariental’s business community. The next rainy season is around the corner, but still the Fish River had not been cleared of reeds and that may cause another flood, she said. Grobler said the reeds in the Fish River that are perceived as the major cause of the flood problem have not been cleared, even after the 2000 floods which could have served as a wake-up call for government. The chairperson further states that her chamber is of the opinion that government could have done something for those residents in the flooded area who were not insured at all or underin-sured. “It is already three months after the flood, but nothing has happened. We want to see the government assisting these businesspeople to stand on their feet again and to start production.” Grobler says her chamber is not out on a collision course with government, but wants to ensure the safe and continuous existence of Mariental. “We doubt very seriously whether the government, through its Mariental Flood Task Force, is business driven. “Every time when a flood hits the southern town, a new task force is set up, studies are carried out and reports submitted to the relevant authorities. However, nothing is forthcoming. It does not help to set up a new task force every time. The job has already been done. We simply need to sit down and carry out the recommendations already made,” she contended. Grobler also lashed at Namwater, saying the way the corporation handled the floods situation was deplorable. She wanted to know whether Namwater was really serious in managing the Fish River to the advantage of the people of Mariental or to their demise. She said the government must do something tangible to clear the Fish River of reeds before the next rainy season. “I am convinced that the next rainy season will also be a good one and Mariental will again be flooded if we do not do something to clear the river.” Grobler also admitted that development in the western parts of the town should be halted immediately. She said as long as the threat of floods exists and government is slow to clean the river, development in the western parts will remain an exercise in futility. Meanwhile, Mariental’s Chief Executive Officer and member of the government appointed Mariental Flood Task Force, Paul Ngwililepo refuted allegations by Grobler that the process of assisting businesspeople at Mariental was not up to date. He said he was aware of a petition currently in circulation among the business community at the town. He said the government has already availed millions of dollars to help Mariental and its entire people. Ngwililepo said efforts were made after the 2000 floods to clear the river of reeds, but they grew again. So the question of clearing the reeds was not the only solution. He said the government was busy with plans to find a lasting solution for the flood problem of Mariental. As a result a group of experts was invited from South Africa to assist Namibia in finding a lasting solution. He said next week, a high-powered delegation of experts from South Africa will again visit Namibia to take aerial photos of the Fish River and the Hardap Dam in order to work out modalities for a lasting solution for the flood prone town. Ngwililepo objected to the belief among some people at Mariental that the river should be cleared of reeds and the status quo retained. “That is not a solution and we want a permanent solution for the problem,” he said. He further stated that although it is normal for people to seek instant solutions, it is not possible in the case of Mariental. The fact that government is pumping in millions of dollars on surveys and other studies is clear testimony that it is serious about the flood situation in Mariental and the well being of the inhabitants of the Hardap region in general and Mariental in particular, Ngwililepo concluded.