Omaheke Needs Water Policy Change

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Omaheke Regional Poverty Profile says the policy of cost recovery of operation and management of water points should be reviewed if all people in the region are to have access to water. The inhabitants in the region in the recently launched profile identified inadequate and unreliable water supply as not only their most pressing problem but also their top most priority. Most communities in the region’s rural settings experience problems with poor and intermittent yields from their boreholes as they run dry at times. The other sources of water that are available also have problems due to the unreliability of diesel engines, says the profile. On government farms, communities say they have no government support to maintain their boreholes, while other poor people lack resources to contribute to water point committees. The problems, according to the profile, have policy implications, as the prohibitive costs involved in surveying, drilling and equipping new boreholes cannot be borne by the communities alone. “Policy review is in order to clearly define and assign institutional responsibility for the drilling of new boreholes for communities who may need them becomes necessary,” it said. In this regard, the profile added that policy review regarding cost recovery, community based management, subsidised water for the poor at both national and local authority level tariffs and sectoral responsibilities remain inevitable. The profile in its recommendations says the policy of recovering costs of water provided to rural communities should be reviewed and if necessary revised, because “equitable access to water for all, rich and poor, should be the starting point in this regard”. It says that measures should be put in place to ensure that each household has access to the most basic minimum amount of water per day for free, and then levies be added to excess water. “Policy directives similar to the block tariff system used by the Windhoek Municipality could be considered where the first 50 litres per household per day could be fully subsidised at no cost to the very poor and up to 200 litres per household could be offered at a lower rate, as is the practice for clients who have a water consumption meter at their houses,” the profile recommended. This, says the profile, would go a long way in helping reduce the cost of water to the poor. The fact that a number of ministries and one parastatal are responsible for water also makes it difficult for coordination and has negative impacts on maintenance of water infrastructure in rural areas. The ministries of Agriculture, Water and Forestry; Lands and Resettlement and Namwater are responsible for water related issues. Says the profile: “The fragmentation of responsibilities and budgets makes coordination of water supply difficult and has negative impacts on the maintenance of water infrastructure in rural areas, resettlement farms, in particular are not properly served.” It added that the fragmentation of one single resource in rural areas needs to be done away with in favour of more integrated and consolidated roles by a single state organ. Apart from the poor in rural areas, the urban ones who live in informal settlements also complained of the high costs associated with water as well as poor maintenance and management. The residents felt that water was inaccessible because it is expensive and they have to walk long distances to fetch water from other settlements. Due to this, the profile recommends that rural communities be helped in drilling additional boreholes and rehabilitating the old ones to redress the problems, while the residents of informal settlements need more water points.

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