KATIMA MULILO – The permanent relocation of residents living in flood-prone areas to higher ground is not a feasible solution, as it might create territorial disputes with neighbouring countries in future, Kabbe Constituency Councillor and chairperson of Zambezi Regional Council, Raphael Mbala, has said.
According to Mbala, Namibia might lose its land like what happened with the Kasikili Island, which was part of Namibia from time immemorial.
“The idea of relocating people to higher ground is not a good idea. This should not form part of the solution to this perennial problem of flooding. Doing this we may end up losing our land to foreign nationals. This happened with Kasikili Island. Kasikili in the past used to be part of Namibia, there was even a school there but due to floods the area was abandoned,” recalled Mbala.
Namibia and Botswana were previously locked in a territorial land dispute over Kasikili, which was subsequently won by Botswana.
Mbala noted that the eastern plains of the Zambezi Region, which suffer from flooding annually, are currently a hotbed for foreign nationals, who constantly inhabit the area illegally, a situation that has even forced the Namibian Police Force to drive them out constantly.
“If we live this vast area, other nationals may come in and there will be conflicts. Even now, foreign nationals come there. We use the police all the time to drive them out of the area,” said Mbala.
He noted that as an alternative, government has instead decided to elevate areas that are prone to flooding by filling them with sand and designating those as relocation centres. According to Mbala, this is also cost-effective for government. “The ministry of Works [and Transport] did a feasibility study at the beginning of May last year. Everything was submitted to the Ministry of Works [and Transport] and promises were made that this year the process of elevating schools will be done. Relocating people to higher ground has become expensive for government,” Mbala said.
Mbala further said pilot projects were already done on three schools of Muzii, Namiyundu and Nankuntwe that also accommodated the community during last year’s floods. “We started with three schools that were affected. The next schools in line are Namiyundu, Ivilivinzi and Masikili. We have noticed that books and desks get damaged in the process of relocation and even the lives of people are in danger.
People in villages will also relocate to these centres until when the water has subsided,” said Mbala.
With the region having experienced erratic rains that resulted in many maize fields wilting in the scorching heat, Mbala was uncertain whether a major flood is likely this year. He, however, noted that the Zambezi Regional Council was not complacent and was prepared for any eventuality. “We have mechanisms in place. This week the regional disaster and risk management committee will meet to look at the drought situation. Even though the flood is coming late, we will also look at that. All our boats have been serviced, including the Kapelwa Kabajani. We have also started advising people to be on the lookout and move their cattle to higher ground,” said Mbala.
He also revealed that government has decided to subsidise boat fares for the Kapelwa Kabajani ferry, which were unaffordable for most residents. “From Katima to Luhonono (former Schukmannsburg), for example it’s now N$45,” Mbala stated.