Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Gov’t needs to be more transparent about the water situation

Over the last few months it has become clear that water supply is going to become a big economic issue for Botswana in the short to medium terms. There was hope that sufficient rains would deliver water into the Gaborone Dam and thus help avert what threatens to be the largest economic crisis since the global recession. As it turned out, rain season came and will soon come to an end. And there is not much to show for it in as far as the supplies captured by Gaborone Dam. We cannot fairly blame government for low or lack of rains.

What we can however hold them accountable for a lack of transparency on how low rains will affect water consumption and with that the economy. We can also hold the government accountable for poor planning or refusing to plan ahead especially on infrastructure transporting water as a way of anticipating shortages and thereby working ahead to mitigate the effects of anticipated shortages. Gaborone Dam, by far the most important water facility in the country because of the number of people it services and also the economic significance of its recipients has for some time now been under strain. That strain seems set to continue. The fact that Gaborone Dam could run dry does not bode well for the country. For some years now the economy of Botswana has been under constant disruptions stemming from electricity shortages. Such disruptions are not over yet.

And our view is that it would be a calamity if in addition to energy crisis the country could be subjected to a double whammy of water and electricity just when the economy was trying to rebound. To its credit Botswana Government has built a sizeable portfolio of dams in the north.

While those dams have much more water than the country could ever need, the trouble is that there is not in place sufficient infrastructure linking the dams in the north to places in the south where water is most needed.

That failure is in our opinion one big shortcoming with which the Government of Botswana is going to be grappling with trying to explain and even justify in the near future. We are aware that that government, through the ministry responsible for water and indeed through the water utility, (WUC) is working round the clock to get that infrastructure in place. But time is not on our side because Gaborone Dam is drying much faster than we could have imagined.

We are also aware that government is putting in place a whole suite of interventions like sinking a large number of boreholes in the Kgatleng District as part of efforts to augment the dwindling supply available for the greater Gaborone. This particular project, it is our information has fallen behind schedule because just as government believed it was completing the project it then became apparent that many of the already existing boreholes had become unusable and new ones had to be sunk in their place.

In the meantime the rainy season is coming to an end, and not enough water has been captured by Gaborone Dam. As a matter of fact this means that there is going to be a water supply deficit ÔÇô a sizeable one at that until such time that water from the north and the one from the boreholes enter the supply chain. What government needs to be doing now is to be communicating more honestly and more transparently with the nation on what the situation really is going to be.

This is important not only to prepare the nation but also make sure that the government is not held responsible for all the troubles that are inevitably going to come when water shortages start to bite.

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