Saturday, May 30, 2020

May the current water shortages should be a wakeup call

Unless it rains significantly in the next two months, there is no question that Botswana, especially the southern parts is headed for a crisis with potentially catastrophic implications on the country’s development road map.

While we should all as a nation pray for rains over the next few months, we should also going forward make necessary adjustments to allow the country to invest more in water projects to help boost sustainability.

Such investments should as much as possible be made at those parts of the nation where water demand is highest.

The current water rationing, while unavoidable and indeed understandable is already proving not just an inconvenience but also an impediment to national development.

The nation is having to put up with these rations and this brings about otherwise avoidable disputes between the public and the authorities.

A number of dams in the south are at critically low levels.

Worse, others have already dried up.

And being a hot season, water demand and use is at its highest, exacerbated by hot weather that facilitates evaporation.

To their credit, Water Utilities Corporation has been showing a rare kind of willingness among parastatals to disseminate information on the situation as it unfolds.

That is highly commendable and it is only right that the public recognizes the efforts by WUC management and staff under these difficult and trying circumstances.

We acknowledge that over the last few years, government has invested significantly in the construction of dams in the northern parts of the country.

But by far demand in the south outstrips that in the north.

Which means that there is an added imperative to drive water from the north down to the south, no doubt at added costs and additional risks.

More resources should be invested to evaluate possibilities of making the southern parts of the country more resilient to long dry spells.

This no doubt involves establishing possibilities of investing in high capital projects as early as now.

Postponing and/or waiting only makes developments much more expensive when they ultimately have to be made with not much time at hand for flexibility as the situation with energy requirements has just proved.

Lastly, Water Utilities should become more efficient.

We are aware that the water sector reforms recently implemented have no doubt eroded the corporation’s capacities, efficiencies and even introduced new and altogether unforeseen circumstances.

But the WUC leadership should going forward show more imaginative and visionary leadership, especially in their advice to government on what investments need to be done to avoid and even circumvent what troubles we currently are facing as a nation.

We say this because it is not far-fetched to imagine possible acts of capital misallocation by government in the recent past when decision were made to build dams almost exclusively in the far north which would translate in extensive costs trying to carry water down south.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.