We can repair desalination plants: Govt

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has denied reports suggesting it lacks the capacity to fix two solar-powered desalination plants set up to supply potable water to Amarika and Akutsima in the Omusati Region.

The two solar-powered desalination plants in question were donated by the German government in 2013 at a cost of about N$200 million.

Deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Abraham Nehemia this week said government had enough competent people with the skills needed to repair the plants.
His response came after the Namibian Sun reported last week that Nehemia had confirmed that government failed to repair the plants. He subsequently said training was conducted to reinforce the skills needed to repair the plants.

According to him, government is looking to assign permanent personnel to operate the plants on a full-time basis.

“The desalination plants were donated in November 2013, which was four years ago. The government did not fail. This is a misinterpretation of what was said.

“When the plants were installed, the population at the respective settlements was lower than it is today. Now it has tripled, which has added more pressure on the plants, and thus more breakdowns,” he explained.

He said the repair cost could not be fully quantified, as it varies from time to time, adding that the main costs related to the repairs are the salary and transport costs.

In addition, he said government was also looking at alternate ways to supply water to the affected communities.

There were also reports that the plants have a computerised system that is monitored directly from Germany.

In this regard, he said it was true the computerised system was monitored in Germany, as per the conditions of the warrant by the manufacturers, as it was a research project and a new system in a semi-arid country like Namibia.

However, he said the communication channels existed and assistance could be requested from the German experts via email.

“This is new technology, which the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has to take on board, and spare parts [have] to be acquired from outside the country. The issue of government failing to repair is thus taken out of context. Government is doing everything possible,” the deputy permanent secretary explained.

He said it must be understood that the plants were part of a pilot research project and were still being tested and monitored with respect to their viability, adaptability, affordability and suitability.

Asked when the plants would be repaired for the local people to have easier access to potable water, Nehemia said the repairs would be carried out as soon as all the required parts were available.

Currently, he said, potable water was being provided to the community by water-tankers and two water-points installed by the Ministry of Land Reform.

He said the objective of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry was to have the plants running 24-hours a day, so that the local communities could have access to potable water in their localities.

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