KEETMANSHOOP – Construction of the N$5.7 billion Neckartal Dam in the //Kharas Region is essentially complete but the project’s strength needs to be tested with rainwater – which has been scarce because of prevailing dry conditions.
This was confirmed yesterday by //Kharas governor Lucia Basson, who strongly defended the project against critics who charged that it was senseless to construct the dam – the biggest in the country – in a region as arid as //Kharas.
The dam, situated 40 km northwest of Keetmanshoop, is located within the catchment area of the Fish River near Berseba.
Though initially scheduled for completion in 2017, the project was delayed by a myriad of issues, including lack of timely payment to Italian company Salini Impregilo, which won the multi-billion tender for the project.
Once completed, it will be the largest dam in Namibia, almost three times the capacity of the Hardap Dam upstream. The dam’s purpose is to support a 5000 hectares within its proximity.
Shred to pieces by armchair critics as a project that made little sense both financially and economically, the idea to construct this dam has its origins to the time of German colonialisation.
It was one of the last major projects undertaken in the evening of former head of state Hifikepunye Pohamba’s presidency.
Naute Dam in the same area, likewise an irrigation dam, is deemed under-utilised but proponents of the Neckartal Dam argued that for an irrigation scheme of 5000 hectares, Naute Dam was deemed too small for this ambitious scale of crop production.
With the project now complete, its engineers are required to prove its durability with rainwater, ironically in a year that rain has stubbornly stayed away.
According to governor Basson, Neckartal is to get its water content from the flows or the Fish River and neighbouring streams of water flowing in the area.
She thus dispelled naysayers’ assertion that the N$5.7 billion spent on the project was money wasted.
“It was a brilliant idea, if anything,” she declared.
“For decades, water was just passing by and causing a lot of damage. All of it was going to waste,” she told New Era at her office yesterday.
“5000 hectares of irrigation will hugely benefit the people of this region, who mainly rely on small livestock farming for survival. We will engage Governor of Kavango East [Dr Samuel Mbambo] and tap from the successes of his Operation Werengendje initiative.”
“People in this region historically don’t do crop farming because of the dry conditions but they now have appetite for it and we will help them,” she added.
Initially budgeted at N$3.2 billion the cost of the Neckartal Dam has significantly ballooned over the years, in part due to delays and penalties on late payments by the government. The total cost of the dam is now set at about N$5.7 billion, as stated by the ministry’s executive director Percy Misika during his visit to the dam in January 2018.
Located in the Berseba Constituency in the //Kharas Region, Neckartal Dam is about 80 metres high and now becomes the largest dam in Namibia, with the ability to hold 880 million cubic metres of water, the equivalent of 300 000 Olympic pools. Its surface area covers nearly 40 square kilometres.