Water ministry mulls building dam on the Orange River

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and the Namibian government are studying the possibility of building a dam on the lower Orange River.

Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry Buyelwa Sonjica said that the proposed dam would ensure a stable supply of water to the Northern Cape in the future.

“Although you have the two largest rivers in the country running through the Northern Cape—the Orange and Vaal Rivers—there are great demands on the water from the upstream users, which include the economic heartland of the country,” she said.

“Whilst the Northern Cape’s entitlements on their water will not be downscaled, the reality is that there is currently no surplus water available in these two rivers.

“The department is currently involved in a joint study with Namibia on the possibility of building a new dam on the lower Orange River to ensure future stability of water supply.”

Sonjica said 400ha of land had been reserved along the lower Orange River for the settlement of emerging farmers.

She said although in the Northern Cape the tourism industry around the two major rivers was already well developed, there were still economic opportunities to explore.

“The Northern Cape with its harsh and arid climate has less potential than our other provinces for intensive agriculture. The limited water resources must thus be used as efficiently as possible.”

About 3,6-million South African do not have any access to safe water, but the government is committed to ending that backlog by 2008, Sonjica said.

Another 8,5-million people have been served with basic sanitation, largely through housing and municipal infrastructure programmes.

“Sanitation remains a major challenge with 16-million people in our country not enjoying access to a safe, healthy and convenient sanitation facility,” Sonjica said.

The minister congratulated the Northern Cape, which is South Africa’s driest province and has its smallest population—900 000—for introducing dry sanitation systems which have been successfully implemented in Namaqualand.

She said the province was now supplying basic water to 90% of households that did not have running water.
It was also providing basic sanitation to 74% of unserved homes.

The government, she said, has made R1,2-billion available over the next three years to eliminate the bucket system.

The Northern Cape has about 16 000 buckets remaining.

“You are well on your way to eliminate this stinking legacy of the past,” she said.

The quality of drinking water in the Northern Cape remained a challenge due to the fact that the natural quality of ground water is poor and because of the technical expertise needed to operate water purification plants, the minister said. - Sapa

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