Lahja Nashuuta and Jeremiah Ndjoze
Windhoek-Residents of Goreangab informal settlement on the outskirts of Windhoek have resorted to using untreated seepage water from the heavily contaminated nearby dam, which flows into surrounding riverbeds, for domestic use, a New Era investigation can reveal.
When a New Era team arrived in the area yesterday, some residents were spotted filling their containers from the slow-flowing drainage water, while others were doing their laundry along the stream. Issues raised by residents include the scarcity of potable water in the area, the unaffordability of municipal water cards, lack of awareness on the health implications and the sheer ignorance among some of the residents of the sprawling settlement next to the Goreangab Dam.
Rosalia Athingo, a resident in the area for the past six years, told New Era that people use the dam’s downstream water in their households – for bathing, laundry and washing dishes only, but not for drinking purposes.
“I don’t know what happens in other households, but I don’t drink this water, nor do I allow my children to do so. I strongly believe it is not clean and might cause illnesses,” Athingo told New Era upon enquiry.
Athingo maintained that although she has a municipal card that she recharges monthly, it does not guarantee she has enough clean water to cater for all her domestic requirements. She lamented the fact that her residence is located some five kilometres from the water points and she does not have a vehicle that could carry sufficient containers.
Athingo said some residents have resorted to using ash that they collect from the fire as a water purification agent. She said the ash is sprinkled in the water and left to settle down, after which the residents assume that the water is clean enough to use.
Another resident, Steven Andreas, described the water scarcity in the informal settlement as a serious problem that requires urgent government attention.
“I always hear that prevention is better than cure and if the authorities do not provide us with clean water, treating an entire community infected with a waterborne disease will be much more expensive and with serious ramifications,” he said
The mayor of the City of Windhoek, Muesee Kazapua, confirmed the municipal council is aware of the plight of residents and that plans are on course to address the matter.
He maintained that the council is currently rolling out its five-year strategic plan for 2017 – 2022 through which it endeavours to formalise the informal settlements, and to this end an expression of interest from the private sector to get on board is being sought.
“Through this formalisation we will then address issues such as the lack of potable water and sanitation,” Kazapua said.
He was quick to indicate that, as a result of the hepatitis E outbreak, the council was forced to come up with immediate mitigating measures.
“As a short-term plan we have identified areas in the most affected informal settlements where we will erect toilets and taps for potable water in order to counteract the current spread of the hepatitis E virus,” Kazapua added.
On his part, City of Windhoek corporate communications officer Scheifert Shiwedha emphasised the council’s stance that people should not consume or make use of water from the Goreangab Dam as it is highly polluted with raw sewerage.
“No one is allowed to drink or to use this water for any domestic use. This water is contaminated. It contains faeces and now that we are trying to mitigate the spread of the hepatitis E outbreak, we are strongly discouraging people from getting anywhere close to this water,” Shiwedha said.
He added that recreational activities such as swimming and fishing at the dam are also forbidden and warning signs have been erected in the area to this effect.
“We even discourage people from removing the remains of people who have drowned in the dam, as only certified divers are allowed to search and recover the remains of people in the dam.”
Shiwedha revealed that in order to ensure the constant availability of potable water in the informal settlements, the municipality will provide about 35 water tanks, with a volume of 10,000 litres, and an additional 70 water tanks with a volume of 5,000 litres , all of which are to be strategically distributed among the informal residential areas this year.