OMUTHIYA -With sporadic rains experienced, hopes among farmers in Omuntele have faded as the water shortage in the constituency has reached crisis levels.
Fear of losing livestock is high among farmers as the available water is saline and there is no grazing pasture due to persistent drought. Members of the community have to track long distances to get water at Omuntele centre where the water pipeline ends.
To mitigate the situation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has been using a water tanker to supply water to the area but it broke down last year.
On a sad note, everyday the community wakes up hoping the multi-million-dollar water project initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry will be up and running, instead three years past the initial date of completion, it is slowly turning into a white elephant due to a lack of funds aggravated by the lengthy public procurement process.
The project is meant to supply water through a pipeline from Okatope, to areas in Omuntele constituency as well as neighbouring areas such as UukwiyuUushona in Oshana region for both human and animal consumption.
The project came to a halt in 2017 after funds dried up. The head of sanitation, water and rural supply in the region, Stevenson Tuukondjele said in an interview, the project has dragged on for longer than usual, expressing fears that pipes and the reservoir might start getting damaged due to vandalism and rust.
Tuukondjele said about N$12 million is needed to finish with the remaining work, while over N$47 million has so far been spent on the bulk work.
“The initial amount of N$47 million budgeted for the project was fully utilised. However, the project expanded due to a higher need thus requiring additional funding, and has not been financed since then. Due to the urgency and dire situation on the ground and fear of damage to infrastructure, we proposed for tendering exemption but this request was turned down. That is where the holdup is, as they are still busy with the procurement process to advertise a tender,” explained Tuukondjele, adding that he is inundated with queries from community members on a daily basis.
Furthermore, he said it would be cheaper if the project could be exempted from tendering as they can appoint the same contractor who started the project to finish it off. “Without tendering, it could be cheaper, the contractor knows all about the project, where he stopped and what is to be done next,” he stated.
“This project has become a problem to us, and I am very disappointed that it’s still not operational to date. We anticipated it would be operation last year but that did not happen, therefore I am pleading to the ministry and government to really look and priorities this matter, in order to avoid severe loses. The biggest job has been done, what’s remaining just a small part, but if prolonged and ignored it will be a total wastage of resource,” he stated.
He added that, “the amount of the remaining work was estimated at N$6 million last year but it has now doubled to N$12 million, who knows next [year] it might spiral to N$20 million.”
Meanwhile, the councillor for Omuntele, Sakeus Nangula told New Era in an interview that farmers are losing livestock on a daily basis due to a shortage of grass and water.
“There is a bigger problem, we are hoping the project is completed, our people are fetching water very far,” briefly stated Nangula.