Democratic Resettlement Community (DRC) residents in Swakopmund say they find it difficult to cope with only four funtioning water-points out of the 23 installed at the informal settlement situated on the northeastern outskirts of the coastal town.
It is estimated that about 20 000 people live in the DRC settlement. According to the residents some of the water standpipes have been out of order for months, despite being reported to the municipality.
They said getting water has now become a constant daily struggle, despite the fact water is among the most basic of human needs and should be accessible to all citizens. Some residents have resorted to using wheelbarrows to transport water. Others claim it takes them at least an hour to collect water, as the nearest standpipes are out of order.
According to 71-year-old Morrison Alweendo, who has been living in DRC for almost seven years, getting water has become a daily struggle. The pensioner says he now has to walk at least two kilometres to get water from a nearby water-point and points out that there is one in front of his house that does not function.
“This one hasn’t been working for a while now and I’m now forced to get water at another point, which is very far from my house,” the shack dweller complained. Many elderly people, whose mobility is restricted due to age or illness suffer the same problem as they struggle to carry or transport water from distant standpipes.
According to Alweendo the water-point near his shack has been out of order for at least two months. He, however, says the municipality sent some workers to repair the point a week ago.
“Some residents started insulting the worker, who was sent to repair that water-point and the man just took off. The frustrated residents were asking the worker why they took so long to repair the standpipe, but he refused to answer their questions and just left,” Alweendo said.
He has to collect water every day, as he cannot carry heavy water drums. He also cannot also afford a wheelbarrow, which has now become a necessity for DRC residents to collect water.
Another concerned resident, Shirley !Hoes, said she resides in Seaside Park and they don’t have any water points at all in that area. “The closest point was already far from where we are staying and now that it is also out of order, we have to walk long distances to get water. It takes us hours to collect water,” she explained.
According to !Hoes residents of the area have reported the broken water meters on numerous occasions, yet there are only a few in operation and have to meet the needs of the whole DRC.
This reporter counted at least six water-points that were out of order and queues of shack dwellers could be seen at two water-points as people patiently waited their turn to fill their containers with the precious liquid.
The residents claimed that only three of the water-points are currently in operation.
When contacted about the broken water standpipes on Tuesday, the spokesperson of the Swakopmund Municipality, Ailie Gebhardt, said there are currently 23 standpipes in the old DRC and three more are being installed in the new part of DRC.
“The water works staff members go to DRC three times a week to investigate any leakages or broken standpipes and repairs are done immediately if any fault or damage is detected.” She said five standpipes were repaired last week Friday but were broken again by Sunday.
They are doing their utmost to ensure the standpipes are functional, she said. “It is, however, extremely difficult to keep them functional because of vandalism and the tampering with the devices by the residents. We have all the damage caused at each standpipe on record,” Gebhardt said.
She said some residents force pieces of wire into the water pipes thus damaging the pipes.
“The public is urged not to tamper with or break the standpipes, since its costly for council to repair the pipes. Residents should take care of the infastructure as it is there for their own benefit and advantage,” she said.