By Petronella Sibeene
A flood mitigating committee is in the process of drawing up a programme that would permanently relocate hundreds of families in the Caprivi Region that currently have to endure annual flooding. The relocation could start next year.
The exercise is aimed at mitigating flooding among residents of eastern Caprivi and northern Namibia.
The Acting Director of the Directorate Emergency and Disaster Management in the Office of the Prime Minister, Gabriel Kangowa, told New Era that the committee, comprising of members of the line ministries and a consultant, is in consultation with chiefs in the flood areas of the Caprivi Region to speak to their people on the programme aimed at moving them to higher ground permanently. The need for what others might call a second home, will prevent situations where every year the Government and other stakeholders have to pump out millions of dollars in relocating the affected to higher ground.
Although the process might take long, Kangowa says as soon as the flood situation for this year is normalised, the committee will concentrate on how the proposed project can be implemented speedily.
Critical areas for flooding in the Caprivi Region include Kasika, Nsundwa, Itomba, Muzii, Mpukano and Vilivinji.
So far, the committee has held meetings with the MaSubiya kuta that agreed there is land where thousands of annual flood victims could be settled permanently. He said there are some families who are not keen to be relocated permanently saying their forefathers are buried on the land they currently occupy. As such, it is of sentimental and sacred value.
Kangowa says the committee and its stakeholders will not give in to such attitudes, as the prime objective of relocating people is to ensure that they are secure and free of the dangers posed by floods.
The thousands to be relocated, Kangowa added, can still keep their land and use it for economic and agricultural purposes but in times when the floods are imminent, they could easily move to higher ground than to always call on the Government to rescue them. For the elderly, those living with disabilities and children, Kangowa says they will not necessarily have to stay in low-lying areas and wait until the flood season to move to higher ground. He suggested they could just dwell forever in the new homes.
“We want them to have a second home and then the Government can develop the area,” he said. Kangowa disclosed that last year, a team of experts was sent to the Barotse- land of Zambia, which is one of Africa’s biggest wetlands.
The Lozi people from the Barotse flood plain annually hold a traditional ceremony called kuomboka, which means ‘to get out of water’.
The kuomboka is held annually when the Upper Zambezi River rises and floods the Bulozi plain forcing the Lozi Litunga or King to evacuate his people to higher ground or their second home.
Based on the study in Barotseland, Kangowa said there are lessons that Namibia can learn in trying to find a lasting solution to the flood situation in the country.
“There the government does not get a headache like we get here. The people know when to move”, said Kangowa.
He reiterated that the committee is in constant consultation with the chiefs in flood areas to educate the communities on the dangers posed by floods. Regarding the floods in northern Namibia, the acting director says the town councils in flood areas will have to identify land where these people can be moved.
Governor of Oshana Region, Clemens Kashuupulwa, confirmed to New Era that efforts to relocate flood victims are on course and municipalities will soon have to identify land where the people can be settled permanently in the near future. The long-term strategic plan for floods in northern Namibia, the governor added, will be to redirect the flow of water around areas lying in wetlands. He said the region would soon identify an engineer who will advise if such an undertaking is feasible.
“We will start working on this issue (permanent relocation) as soon as this year’s floods are over otherwise the cycle will continue and a lot of money that could be used for other developmental projects will continue to be pumped into this,” Kangowa said.
Kangowa, who is in the Omusati Region, described the flood situation as critical and life threatening.
He said rivers are full and fast flowing while water is running over the bridge between Outapi and Ruacana.
Some families were found marooned on top of houses and property and more could find themselves in the same situation should rains continue.
A daily report on river flows as provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry on Monday said??????’??