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Why Mokaila is rejecting the new Water Ministry

Publishing Date : 03 October, 2016

Author : THABO BAGWASI

The Minister of Minerals Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila could find himself between a rock and a hard place as he is likely to make a decision on whether he takes up a proposed Water sector ministry or he shafts himself to the back bench.

Early indications are that the hard working minister is not a fan of the proposed breakaway Ministry because of its plethora of problems with the compounding nag being lack of financial resources.

With President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama expected to announce a cabinet reshuffle soon after the adoption of proposed names of two additional Members of Parliament, Mokaila’s current Ministry is expected to be one of the major catalysts in the reshuffle as it will be split.

According to information gathered by this publication Mokaila is not interested in leading a broke Ministry. With the latest budget strategy paper released by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning painting an unfavourable budgeting environment, and projecting a deficit, cash injection into the financially limping Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) is almost a nullity. WUC is expected to the anchor parastatal of the newly proposed Ministry.

Close associates of the Minister have revealed that he would rather be a member of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s back bench. “The lack of financial resources to support some of the envisaged projects in the water sector seems to be a stumbling block for him. He prefers the minerals and energy sector, which he believes have gone through teething problems but prospects for financing some projects in this sector are promising. The lack of financing in the water sector is almost a setup for failure,” said a BDP Member of Parliament who sympathises with Mokaila. 

Another Ministry which will carry the cash loaded sectors of mining and energy is likely to be given to one of the two people who will be adopted by Parliament as additional Specially Elected legislators. The capitalisation of projects under the two sectors is known to be steep but prospects for success in securing funders are always positive. Mokaila, should he take up the Water Ministry will also be tasked with dealing waste water issues, and currently the WUC needs serious capitalisation to effectively carry out the function.

THE CONUNDRUM FACING WUC

WUC needs a whopping P170 billion to contain the water crisis threatening Botswana. This is contained in a report from a study that was sanctioned by President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama that WUC carry out a “comprehensive assessment of water and wastewater situation” in the country.

According to the report, which was presented to not only Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water resources (MMEWR) but also to a full cabinet last year, WUC conceded that “the water situation requires immediate attention with huge resources.” The total amount of P170 billion is divided between water and wastewater interventions as well as among short, medium and long term.

For water, the government will need P165 billion while for waste water a total of close to P5 billion will be required. Botswana’s budget as presented by Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo last year stood at a sum of P11 billion and it remains to be seen where government will source out the P170 billion  to totally control the water situation in the country. The latest projection by the Ministry of Finance predicts a deficit as well.

Some sources in the top management at WUC had told this publication that efforts will be made to rope in private sector to contribute in the water security as a development process of the country. Some of the top priority projects North-South carrier scheme upgrading works estimated at P1.53 billion (funding available) and to be implemented from now till February 2017.

There will also be a North-South carrier 2.2 pipeline and associated works, Gaborone Wastewater reclamation plant, and Chobe Zambezi water transfer scheme at 66 billion and to take close to 7 years but funds are not available. Other projects include Gaborone master plan, Lobatse Masterplan, refurbishment of Mambo wastewater treatment works as well as Boteti southern and central cluster which will cost around 4 billion and 3 years.

According to the report, some projects include national water loss control project, Letlhakane wastewater, north East and Tutume sub district, and Selibe Phikwe Serule Transfer Scheme which are scheduled to take around 3 years at the cost of 3 billion – are also in the plan of the projects.

The executive was also reminded that some of the action points should be to “develop and enhance water governance – development of trade effluent agreement, development of the regulator, enhancement of institutions.” The report suggests that there is need to profile consumers against water quality required, citing Agriculture and mining requiring less potable water for their operations.

“Reinforcing the culture of conversation and demand management emphasising on huge consumers recycling water – this include institutions such as BMC, boarding schools, and, build water efficiency into building codes with all households urged to have rain water harvesting.”

The report analysed the 16 management centres across the country, national surface and groundwater sources versus demand clusters prior to the 2008 water sector reforms. Cabinet was told that “only 2 management centres of Kanye and Lobatse are in a bad situation whilst Ghanzi, Tsabong and Masunga require closer monitoring – as their situation is also undesirable. Generally the country reflects a healthy view with regards to water sources. 

Through the map, WUC illustrated that the Maun, Ghanzi, Lobatse and Kanye management centres have acute water supply deficit of more than 30%. “Basically the picture reflects extreme infrastructure deficits generally throughout the country.

It was also highlighted that many parts of the country experience serious water loss ranging from 16 – 58% and these include parts of Tsabong, Kanye, Lobatse, Molepolole, Ghanzi, Maun, Kasane, Masunga, Serowe and Mochudi. The only areas that have acceptable water losses are Gaborone, Palapye, Francistown, Selebi Phikwe and Letlhakane management centres.

The report further states that areas currently with conventional sewerage system are: Maun, Gaborone, Kasane, Ghanzi, Francistown, Selibe Phikwe, Tonota, Palapye, Serowe, Mahalapye, Shoshong, Bobonong, Mochudi, Mogoditshane, Tlokweng, Gabane, Lobatse, Goodhope, Jwaneng, Ramotswa and Orapa.

“Out of these only Gaborone, Francistown, Jwaneng and Selibe Phikwe have huge potential for reclamation.” However they need to be refurbished and upgraded to improve efficiency, report says.

The study found that Trade Effluent Agreements need to be put in place to ensure pre-treatment prior to discharging into the system - Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), tannery, poultry, textiles are cited as examples in the report. Effluent currently being discharged into the environment should be further treated for re-use.

It is understood that the total quantity that can be reclaimed from these systems is 50% as minimum of treatment plant capacity.

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