The establishment of increasingly complex – yet ambitious – policies and regulations, many of which remain fragmented, incomplete, unenforced and unimplemented, along with the loss of technical expertise and capacity from the public to the private sector are some of the reasons for the sorry state of water governance in Namibia.
This assessment was made by Dietrich Remmert in the latest report on the reasons for the perilous state of Namibia’s water governance. The report singled out severe under-investment, limited capacity and lack of technical skills as key problems.
The report, entitled ‘Water Governance in Namibia: A Tale of Delayed Implementation, Policy Shortfalls and Miscommunication’, highlights several issues that have inhibited the country’s ability to address its critical water problems and ever-increasing demand.
Slamming poor planning and execution, the report noted that in 2008 total water demand from urban, rural, mining, livestock, tourism and other sectors was recorded at 334.1 million cubic metres per year. By 2015 annual demand had risen to 426.7 million cubic metres. By 2020 demand is expected to shoot up to 583.4 million cubic metres.
The report says institutional weaknesses, including poor communication, lack of governance, and a failure to implement plans and policies, led to a sluggish response to increasing water demand, coupled with recurring drought and other challenges.
While the report criticises the public water sector, it stresses that government alone cannot address the magnitude of water management issues.
The report, published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), includes key recommendations to be implemented as a matter of urgency, including “a far more open, sober and frank dialogue” about water resource management between all stakeholders, including the public.
According to the report, the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) Plan for Namibia estimates that roughly 97 percent of rainfall in Namibia is lost through evaporation. Merely two percent ends up as run-off surface water and only one percent recharges groundwater aquifers.
“Despite these numbers, it can be argued that in Namibia the water sector has not been given the attention from a governance perspective that it rightly deserves,” the report further states.
The most obvious example of deficiencies in the water services sector is the current water crisis in the central area, which the report says was “brought about primarily by the failure of the State to address the situation as a matter of national urgency… Similar to other sectors in Namibia, water and sanitation are hampered by poor implementation of overall sound – if ambitious – policies,” the report further states.
It goes on to say weak regulation and enforcement, mistrust and lack of communication between public institutions, the private sector and the general public, as well as the overall lack of public investment in tangible capital projects, coupled with a growing maintenance backlog on the existing and increasingly inadequate infrastructure has severely limited problem-solving approaches.
Schisms between technical experts and policymakers thus need to be breached as a matter of urgency.
Another issue is the number of institutions involved in regulating and managing the water sector. “As it stands the various institutions responsible for the water and sanitation sector are all struggling to meet their assigned responsibilities,” the report further states.
It says while government has placed emphasis on policies and reports, capacity building and training was neglected, despite concerns about the lack of capacity to manage water resources. In spite of a critical shortage of relevant skills and capacity, “there are few visible and concerted efforts apparent that seek to mitigate and reverse the situation.”
It found that NamWater’s staff complement declined by nearly half, from 1 160 to 601 between 2001 and 2008. In its 2015 annual report NamWater said although it had approved a permanent workforce of 660, only 584 positions had been filled. Most vacancies in the water supply and engineering and scientific services departments, positions that are critical to Namibia’s overall water governance.