Taps running dry is a regular occurrence in Botswana particularly in drought prone areas and it is for this reason, and others, that government borrowed money from the World Bank to improve the availability of water supply in the country.
On Tuesday last week the government of Botswana and the World Bank launched the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project. The 1.5 billion Pula project covers three components, one, improving availability of water supply and efficiency; two, improving wastewater and sludge management; and three, sector reform and institutional strengthening. Improvement of water supply will include projects such as the Selibe Phikwe to Serule water transfer scheme and Ghanzi water supply expansion. Upgrades in waste water and sludge management will consist of rehabilitating the Mambo and Lobatse wastewater treatment plants as well as expanding the Letlhakane wastewater treatment ponds. Enhancement of the country’s water sector reform and institutional strengthening will include a series of studies and technical assistance activities to support stronger long-term planning and efficiency.
Botswana has nine dams from which surface water is sourced and then carried by Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) through 15 management centres across the country. The Corporation’s frequent announcements to the public regarding water supply interruptions, observed in recent times, could lessen following the implementation of the project. A week prior to the emergency water project launch, the Corporation informed the public of a planned maintenance of the North-South carrier (NSC 1) pipeline, a 365 kilometre pipeline that carries water from the northern dams to capital Gaborone. According to the Corporation the pipeline’s two day shutdown was to allow for connection of the Masama West Borehole scheme into the NSC1 pipeline and commissioning of the boreholes. Due to the shutdown the public was warned of a low pressure to no water supply in Gaborone and greater Gaborone. The infrastructural faults of NSC 1 were chronic in 2015 at the height of the episodic drought that the country experienced, the most severe drought in 34 years. The 2016 rains replenished the country’s water sources but instances of the NSC’s failure to deliver water still continued. In addition to the country’s inherent dryness as well as limited sources of water, it also is characterised by poor water infrastructure, to which the Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Prince Maele pointed out during the launch.
Seeking assistance from the World Bank by the government is expected to arrest the serious water shortage that the country is currently subjected to. The Minister expressed that the project may not address all of the country’s water supply problems he however said that it will deal with immediate water challenges.
“The loan will help in our efforts to integrate and manage both our surface and ground water resources, limited as we know that they are. It is estimated that the funds will enable us to bring online water supply systems which will benefit at least 460,000 people in 66 selected villages and towns while at the same time connecting at least 177,000 people to improved wastewater treatment and sludge management systems,” said Maele. According to Maele Parliament approved the loan from World Bank during the Winter Session of 2017, specifically secured to address the emergency water security and efficiency situation in the country. Paul Noumba-Um, World Bank Country Director for Southern Africa, revealed that the Botswana government will contribute 15.5 million Pula from its domestic resources in addition to the 1.5 billion Pula loan secured from the World Bank to be used for the project.