Water crisis: Another NSC shutdown on the cards
Close down on the pipeline next week
It doesn’t rain but pours for the beleaguered Water Utilities Corporation (WUC); as yet another shutdown on the North South Carrier is expected, next week.
The NSC 1 pipeline has lately been prone to excessive shutdowns that often lead to the Greater Gaborone areas running on dry taps for days and sometimes effectively rolling into weeks.
According to highly placed sources at the WUC, “next week Friday the NSC will be shut down again.” During this period the Greater Gaborone area will experience increased supply outages.
“The shutdown is meant to ensure proper interconnection in the system that is currently done for the refurbishment of the pipeline that was laid in place of the GRP pipeline,” a WUC official told the WeekendPost.
It is understood that there is a 26km pipeline made of material called GRP (Glass-fibre Reinforced Polyester) – is the weakest part of the NSC pipeline. These pipes made of centrifugally cast glassfiber reinforced plastics (GRP) which consist of a combination of thermosetting plastics such as for example unsaturated polyester or vinyl ester resins, chopped glass fibers and reinforcing agents. GRP are generally of low standard.
The part, which is 26 km out of the 365 km NSC 1 is said to be problematic. “It has a lot of leakages because of GRP which is essentially a weak material. It’s no longer helpful and therefore requires to be replaced,” he said.
This publication has gathered that the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR) has replaced the weak link with a steel pipeline. “It now has to interconnect to the NSC 2 pipeline which is currently under construction. In other words we have to move from the weakest link to the new pipeline made of steel.” “The shutdown is meant to ensure that we transfer from NSC 1 weak link to the new one made of steel.”
It will not be the first time the pipeline is closed. Recently, on 4th September 2015, the pipeline was shut to repair a leakage around the Bonwapitse area. The pipeline also “experienced a pipe burst upstream” at Palapye earlier in May, and WUC had to shut it down to carry out the necessary repairs.
On January 7, 2014 the corporation also closed the pipeline to allow for repairs following another burst. The shutdowns have often resulted in periods of no water supply in the Greater Gaborone area, outside the water rationing schedule.
The North South Carrier Scheme I (NSC I) is a pipeline that transports water from Letsibogo Dam to the South of the country and supplies Palapye, Mahalapye, Serowe and the Greater Gaborone area which includes essentially the Southern part of Botswana.
Information gathered also suggests that as from the 9th of March this year the newly commissioned Dikgatlhong Dam has also been supplying water to these areas through the same pipeline, relieving the Letsibogo Dam.
However the immaculate source at WUC pointed out that the shutdown was about interconnections and fixing certain leakages. “This time around we want to allow the contractor doing the parallel line to switch from the current to the new one. We already have NSC 1 while NSC 2 is still under construction. The 26 km pipeline has been brought up as part of NSC 2. We are building a parallel 26 km, which is part of NSC 2.”
The WUC Corporate Communications Manager, Matida Mmipi who was not immediately available for comment at press time, is expected to address the media before the NSC 1 shutdown scheduled for next week.
Future of Molatedi dam supply to Botswana “uncertain”
Meanwhile, more water woes are expected as Molatedi Dam in South Africa, which has been supplying 26ml/day to Botswana is drying up. The dam is now said to be supplying reduced amounts of 4.8 millilitres per day. Recent Media reports have alluded to officials in that country considering cutting off supply to Botswana.
Weekend Post has turned up information that the WUC has been in a series of meetings with their South African counterparts to discuss the matter further. “They are constantly reviewing the amount that is coming to Botswana and it will not be a surprise that they will cut water to Botswana,” the WUC official told this publication.
WUC Board Chairperson, Matome Malema told this publication that Molatedi dam is still supplying to Botswana and they have not cut ties with them. He said the agreement they have with them still stands. “As far as I know, they did not cut ties, our agreement is that when the dam goes down they reduce the amount they give us,” Malema maintained.
According to CCTV Africa, South Africa is set to cut off Botswana from receiving water supplements after Molatedi Dam dropped to extremely low levels. The dam is located near Zeerust in North-West South Africa. For years Gaborone has been receiving water from South Africa but an agreement dating back to 1988 required that when the dam level dropped by 26 per cent, supply would be cut.
Paul Bender to replace Leornard Nxumalo at WUC?
International media reports have been abuzz with reports that former Cleveland Public Utilities Director Paul Bender has resigned effective October 7, and linking him with WUC in Botswana.
Bender is alleged to have asserted that his work in Cleveland was both challenging and rewarding, but he “has an opportunity to help the Republic of Botswana ‘consolidate all water and waste water services to the national level.’”
However, the Weekend Post source said he was not aware whether Bender will be employed full time at the corporation, saying, “Bender has always been advising WUC on how to structure the tariff.”
He stated: “he has been around to advice on tariff framework – how to structure it, how you charge water to customer in terms of volumes, and if you consume a certain volume how much you charge, he is an expert in the area.”
Bender, who is said to have received $200,000 a year as utilities director, was permitted to remain an outside consultant and take unpaid leaves of absence to do work for other clients, including Botswana.
“His work as a consultant and then director was critical to improving customer service in the Division of Water, the implementation of the automated meter reading program and putting the Division on track to be able to potentially not raise water rates for five years beginning in 2015,” his former employer mayor Frank Jackson wrote on North East Ohio media Group.
Jackson hired Bender as chief of public utilities in March 2013, after he had spent two years working as a consultant to oversee sweeping improvements to a Water Department plagued by billing problems, staffing inefficiencies and complaints of poor customer service.
Under Bender's tutelage, calls are now answered more promptly, bills are timely, and the collections rate has spiked to more than 99 percent, the city has reported. “The department is installing an automated meter-reading system throughout its 72-community service area — which is expected to end the department's practice of estimating bills when faulty meters go undetected for an entire billing cycle.”
In Botswana, some believe that he was supposed to be Chief Executive Officer prior to the appointment of Swazi born Leornard Nxumalo. Nxumalo has a fixed contract that ends in March 2017 and those close to the top man say that its renewal is dependent on whether at its end, he or the employer will be willing to renew it. “He is doing his best at the beleaguered corporation but he may leave before 2017 as he has offers in his country Swaziland,” one source close to the CEO said.
Malema however dismissed the assertion as baseless and indicated to this publication in a brief interview that there was no how Bender would come to Botswana to replace the current CEO. “No, there is nothing like that, he won’t replace the CEO,” the board chairperson insisted.
He pointed out that Bender “is just a consultant, we have a relationship with him in that we used his services before, in terms of tariffs.”
Information gathered suggests that Bender's résumé boasts 30 years of financial management and consulting experience, including two decades as chief financial officer for municipal gas, water and wastewater utilities in Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va.
However it is still unclear which role he could assume at the struggling water corporation, should he come.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”