Another call for the construction of weirs in the Cuvelai Delta
Climate change is in vogue as the world’s current most pressing problem. That is, if one can overlook, or for the time being, ignore the financial ails besetting Europe and the US. The impact of climate change will be just as dramatic and severe, over the long run, as a meltdown in Euroland.
For the average Namibian, looming defaults in Europe, stagnation and unemployment in the USA, and decelerated growth in China and India, are but a shimmer on the distant horizon. Although we are undeniably affected by what happens in these lands, the notion of a few dollars more, or less, for a carat of diamonds, or a pound of uranium, is not seen as life threatening. To us, it only matters if the mine makes a sufficient profit (or not too big a loss) so that it can continue paying salaries and taxes. How the big enterprises keep their doors open, and how they manage to balance the books, do not keep their average employee awake at night. It is only the CEO and the top management, worried silly over profit, that lies awake wondering why their performance bonuses have evaporated.
But rainfall does. And Namibia being half desert and the other half almost desert by temperate standards, makes the amount of celestial water we receive in any particular season, so much more a direct and immediate concern. Granted, being a dry place for the past million years or so, we have developed into a pretty unique society. We are fairly comfortable with the fact that generally we have much less water than our neighbours, and even less still, when compared to countries in the temperate zones outside the influence of the so-called High Pressure Belt.
A climate expert recently told me it is estimated that for every degree Celsius rise in average global temperature, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, the so-called ITCZ which brings copious rains to central Africa, expands by about 600km either northward or southward. This, at last, is a measurable and observable fact and is a direct consequence of global warming, and with that, pervasive climate change.
I am not a meteorologist, but what I have observed over the past five years, certainly helps to convince me of a wandering ITCZ. And if I look at the dire impact too much water has had on the northern regions particularly Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshana, then I have to admit, climate change may have more to do with this than we can currently prove in a scientific way.
Since the middle of January, several schools in these northern regions had to be closed due to flooding. This was a mere week or two after they opened for the new year. And it was a repeat of events last year when large tracts of heavily populated areas suffered tremendously under too much water.
At this point, the climatological pointers indicate that we probably will not have such a deluge as last year, but still, when an area is still inundated from a year ago, relatively little new water turns it into an emergency situation again.
Last year, when the floods were at their zenith, I advocated a simple solution. Afterwards it was mentioned to me that this was actually taken serious, and that some “consultants” were dispatched to investigate the practicality of my proposal.
Owamboland west of a line intersecting Ondangwa, straddles four major drainage lines of the Cuvelai Delta, a drainage system that sends surface water from the adjacent part of Angola, and of the Omusati and Oshana Regions, south to a natural collecting point, Lake Oponono. This lake, when full, slowly permeates its contents further south to Etosha.
This is not a fast process seeing that the land is so flat and under usual conditions, it may take months before the water reaches Etosha. This is the fundamental reason for the flooding – too much water flowing away too slowly.
I suggest boxing the four main lines in certain critical areas in such a way that the water is carried to Oponono much faster. We are not talking about canals of hundreds of kilometres. It is only in a handful of critical restrictive points where we need to build weirs of a few kilometres that will hurry the water along at that specific point. The idea is to prevent a built-up and to use Oponono as a natural sump preventing accumulation and overflow in the eeshana close to densely populated areas.
And since this will be construction projects, they can all be funded under TIPEEG. And they can be community based, so no doctored quotes and no fatcats pocketing the money.
Now tell me, has anybody done anything since the previous rain season to actually find and implement a workable solution?