Sunday, December 3, 2023

Botswana to lose North South Water Carrier warranty

Water Utilities Corporation stands to lose the 15 year warrantee of the North South Carrier water pipeline as a result of government’s decision to build the new university at Palapye in a plot that cuts across the controversial multi billion Pula pipeline.

This has emerged in a confidential paper written to government by WUC executives.
The correspondence explicitly outlines the negative implications of continuing with the new university at the current plot as that would mean diverting the pipeline.

Mystery surrounds how it came about in the first place that the proposed new university was allocated a plot that cuts across the pipeline. Rumours doing the rounds in the corridors of power, however, link the plot to an influential member of the Botswana Cabinet who stands to make millions of Pula if government sticks to its current plans.

In an unusually frank correspondence to government, WUC executives confess that the North ÔÇô South Carrier pipelines is dogged by “poor performance.”

During the commissioning of the North South Carrier Water Scheme numerous, pipe bursts were experienced, especially along the glass reinforced pipes (GRP) section of the pipeline. They have occasionally experienced pie bursts which have been repaired by the contractor which were supplied by Owens Corning Botswana. After the commissioning in 2000, the scheme has been operational and has consistently supplied water to Selibe Phikwe, Palapye, Mahalapye, Mochudi and the Gaborone/Lobatse areas. However, the GRP section of the pipeline has occasionally experienced some pipe bursts which have been repaired by the contractor as provided for in the fifteen year guarantee agreement.

Tampering with the pipeline will, however, result in the guarantee being nullified.

WUC executives said in the report that as a result of poor performance, the contractor has for the last six years been “desperately waiting for an opportunity of breach” by the corporation to pull out of the agreement.

The allocation of the new university plot that cuts across the pipeline “provides just such opportunity” as there is a clause with the contractor which nullifies the guarantee if the Corporation modifies the pipeline material.

A WUC assessment paper passed to the Sunday Standard shows that P113 million will be needed to divert the pipeline as a result of the conflict between pipeline and university plot.

As a result of the possible diversion of the pipeline, it is expected that Mahalapye and Mmamashia treatment plants will not receive water for five months.

Even then it will not be smooth sailing as it will mean a fresh application for the servitude along which will pass the pipeline.

After the application, there will be surveying and profiling of the servitude, followed by Environmental Impact Assessment.

WUC envisages that other than the normal process of project designs, more time will inevitably be wasted as a result of possible consultation and compensation of affected members of the community.

Added to the envisaged 24 months design and construction period, is a further two months period to source the DRP pipes.

“The pipeline can be relocated to either west or east of the proposed plot, but the relocation on the west is problematic as the boundary of the university is about 100 metres away from the last houses in the village and in some cases borders the railway servitude,” says the WUC assessment paper.

The Water Utilities Corporation engineers are also worried that as a result of the steep slope, in some places there could be a need to install the more expensive but durable pipes which will take over three months to source from Europe.

“The other possibility is to divert to the eastern side of the university plot. This route will be traversing along the foot of Tswapong hills which is hilly and high, that is, above the hydraulic line and very rocky in some places. In both routes, the minimum length of relocation is approximately 12 km. The length of the new pipeline may increase depending on where the pipe is diverted,” says the WUC paper.
It is also anticipated that the costs of relocating the pipeline will go up “as a new pump station and possibly break pressure tanks may be required.”

“The Corporation has a 15 Year Guarantee agreement with the contractor who constructed the NSC pipeline, and included in this agreement is a clause which nullifies the guarantee if the corporation modifies the pipeline material, fittings, etc or changes the operational regime from the original design without the approval of the Contractor,” says the WUC technical assessment paper.

“Our experience with the contractor during the six years of the agreement is that they are desperately waiting for an opportunity of breach by the Corporation to pull out of this agreement which is proving to be very costly to them due to the poor performance of the scheme.”


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