• March 30th, 2020

Hardap Dam crisis laid bare

Hilma Hashange

MARIENTAL - Stakeholders in the Hardap region, including farmers affected by the closing of the sluices of the Hardap Dam to the irrigation schemes, recently held a meeting with the agriculture, water and forestry minister, Alpheus !Naruseb, in Mariental to discuss ways on how to mitigate the effects it will have on their crop production.

The dam used supply water to green schemes around the dam, as well as potable water to residents of Mariental. 

However, the water level of the dam has decreased rapidly because the lack of water inflow, attributed to poor rainfall. As a result, NamWater recently closed off water supply to farms that relied on the dam for irrigation.

During the meeting, issues were raised regarding the supply of water to the farms and ways to help farmers irrigate their crops. Proposals on how to preserve the scarce water were also presented to the minister and NamWater. According to Hardap farmers’ association chairperson Dawie de Klerk, the Hardap dam plays a fundamental role in Mariental; hence, water in the dam should be preserved.  
He, therefore, suggested the 70% moratorium to be lifted to 80%. 

In 2007, Cabinet set a moratorium that the dam’s water level is kept at a maximum of 70% of its capacity to prevent future overflow of the dam water after the town was flooded in 2006. This allows the dam to absorb high inflow and allows for low outflow through its sluices.

 “If there was no dam, Mariental would not have been here. Fortunately, we have a dam. The flood did not initiate the decision of the 70% moratorium; it was initiated by the Mariental Chamber of Commerce because of the fact that the insurance companies refuse to give any insurance due to the flood. If the moratorium is lifted to 80%, it will be very helpful. That 10% water will take us at 0.4% per week – it can take us a few months; we could reach the rainy season,” said De Klerk.

He added that to lift the moratorium to 80% is one thing but at the end of the season, NamWater should not be too adamant to stick to the 70%. 

“If the meteorological services know there is no rain on the way and the dam is slowly filling up, why pull the sluices at 76% to bring it down at 70% again? I do not see the rational for making that decision,” De Klerk added.

The farmers also suggested having information sharing sessions with regional political leadership stakeholders to pre-empt some of the issues that affect them as small and large-scale farmers. 
“Now that our crops will die if they do not receive water for the next few months, what support structure or system does the government have in place to support the replanting of our crops if the rain ever comes?” questioned George Eiseb, a farmer in the Hardap region.

NamWater CEO Abraham Nehemia said although government has mechanisms in place regarding the low level of water at the dam, the challenge lies in the fact that the dam has no sustainable aquifers. 
“There are no aquifers at Hardap dam so we can’t just say we can go anywhere and drill water – it is quite tricky. We have to look at what we should do next but that also depends at what water level we have in the country. We, as stakeholders, need to work together and face the situation together,” he said.

Nehemia added that NamWater will look into the suggestion of increasing the moratorium from 70% to a higher number but warned that the dam will no longer be allowed to reach its full capacity to avoid the town from being flooded again. “We are not going to allow the dam to reach 100% any longer,” said Nehemia.
Minister !Naruseb said a task team was established during the meeting and will meet with the minister again on 17 February to further discuss the proposals.

Staff Reporter
2020-02-10 07:39:26 | 1 months ago

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