Monday, October 19, 2020

Minister says this water is fit for human consumption

Water from the Sedie Water Treatment Plant in Maun comes in two different flavours: clear and – to borrow the vocabulary of the area MP, “black and grimy”. Surprisingly, the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Mineral Resources, Kitso Mokaila considers the latter flavour to be “acceptable”.

While the illustration might suggest the opposite, the clear and black-grimy water are actually same thing, only the water needs a bit of time to settle to transform from the latter to the former. At the bottom of the receptacle containing the water will form a coppery sludge that in no way could be fit for human consumption and has to be thrown away. A Maun resident who has to drink this water every day says that the official explanation is that the water, which comes from Thamalakane River, is discoloured by riverine vegetation and is otherwise safe to drink. While residents may have doubts, they have no choice but to drink the water. For some time now, Maun residents have expressed grave concerns to both their MP and traditional leader, Kgosi Tawana Moremi, as well as government officials about this water. 

Last year, Tawana asked a parliamentary question about this “black and grimy water” and repeated it a fortnight ago. The response has consistently been that while the water might appear unfit for human consumption, it actually meets “acceptable” water quality standards. Indeed, acceptable is what the water tastes like to an elderly Maun resident ÔÇô a Gaborone-based civil servant who came up in a time period when clean potable water was a luxury limited to less than 10 percent of the population. Never having had such experience, the younger generation tend to be squeamish. 

The water from the Sedie plant will definitely not be what the United Nations had in mind when it crafted Sustainable Development Goal 6 which calls on nations to ensure that there is “Clean Water and Sanitation” for all their citizens. In the first unofficial SDG Index that came out last week, Botswana scored 58.4 percent and placed 80th from among 149 UN member countries. Mokaila says that his ministry is considering shutting down the Sedie plant and constructing a 10-kilometre pipeline that draws water from a completely different source.

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