Thursday, March 4, 2021

Dikgosi take Mokaila to task over private dams blocking Gaborone Dam

Dikgosi on Monday stepped up their protest over a study that shows that rich farmers have built 200 illegal dams along Notwane River and other mainstreams blocking the flow of water into the Gaborone dam.

The traditional leaders took turns to grill Minister responsible for water, Kitso Mokaila over the damming which has disrupted the flow into Gaborone Dam, resulting in unprecedented low level which has forced the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) to start rationing water. The exchange between Mokaila and Dikgosi started shortly after WUC Deputy Chief Executive Officer Nginani Mbayi and Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) Chief Executive Officer Jacob Raleru had made presentations on water and energy challenges respectively at the ongoing session of Ntlo ya Dikgosi. 

Kgosi Phokontsi Seeletso of Mmadinare drew first blood by suggesting that the recent rainfalls that saw Ramotswa border post being inaccessible to motorists should have made a difference to the Gaborone Dam, water level.

“What really happened to the water that resulted in Ramotswa border post being inaccessible during the recent rains? Where did it go?” he asked.

Kgosi Maruje III Thabo Masunga of North East and Kgosi Kgomotso Boiditswe of Serowe region also asked Mokaila the criteria used to allocate individuals or communities pieces of land to construct private dams.  The two should be allowed to construct dams around catchment areas.

“Can dams be constructed anywhere and what are the standards for communities and individuals to construct dams around catchment areas?” Masunga asked.

Replying, Mokaila went to the private dam owners’ defence as he absolved them from blame by insisting that the dams had been there for quite sometime now and they are only to blame now when Gaborone Dam starts to experience low water levels.

“The concern raised that the damming of the main steams had resulted in water not reaching Gaborone Dam has been a non-issue long ago. It is only cropping now because water level at Gaborone dam is low,” said Mokaila.

The minister also said the dams built in the Gaborone catchment area had helped to trap sedimentation ensuring that Gaborone dam does not overspill, a suggestion that prompted murmurs of disapproval from Dikgosi.  

Water level in Gaborone dam have been declining resulting in shortage of water in greater Gaborone forcing WUC to ration water in a bid to address the shortage.

But Mokaila assured Dikgosi that his Ministry would consult their counterparts at the Ministry of Agriculture and assess how best water catchment areas could be protected from individuals who built private dams for agricultural purposes.

A study by WUC and University of Botswana Faculty of Engineering shows that most of the dams have been built in private land belonging to rich families in the Gaborone Dam catchment areas. WUC has since refused to disclose the names of the people who built the dams in Gaborone catchment area.

The study is understood to have revealed the names of the culprits who are believed to be connected to powerful political interests.

Mbayi said Gaborone Dam currently supplies half of what it is supposed to and disclosed that his organisation was considering recycling waste water and its full utilisation to portable level.

“We will continue with the current rationing of water and water restrictions and waste water recycling will be developed,” he said.

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