Namibia: Govt Approves Start of Neckartal Mega Dam Construction

The government has finally given the go-ahead for the building of a massive dam on the Fish River in the Karas Region for the purpose of dry land irrigation in the south, despite facing a legal challenge from one of the bidders for the project.

The bidding process for the project had to be delayed several times since December 2011, due to alleged irregularities and a failure by the Tender Board to agree on which company should get the job. The N$2.8 billion tender has been awarded to Italian dam construction firm Salini S.p.A. The company outbid three other companies, which were short-listed from a total number of 23 companies that tendered for the job. Salini S.p.A beat Egyptian company Vinci-Orascom Joint Venture and CSC Neckartal Dam Joint Venture, a joint venture between Stefanutti Stocks and CMC de Ravenna, to secure the lucrative tender.

The contracts for the construction of the dam, the country's biggest ever, will finally be signed between Salini S.p.A and a technical team from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry this week, New Era has established.

Meanwhile, Vinci-Orascom Joint Venture, which reportedly scored the highest in the overall evaluation has resorted to the courts asking that the decision to grant the job to Salini S.p.A be set aside. The company is asking for a review of the tender award.

The government, unmoved by the latest developments, has declared that the Neckartal dam is crucial for development and will create jobs and any delay will not be entertained.

Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, when officially giving the green light for initial work to begin on the mega project on a tributary of the Fish River, did not mince words during a well-attended stakeholders meeting last week Thursday.

According to Mutorwa, plans to build the dam were first mooted during the time of the South African colonial regime. A feasibility study done in 1987 found the construction feasible, but the plans were shelved for unexplained reasons.

Given that history, Mutorwa described the award of the tender as a "milestone that will see the envisage project becoming a reality".

"The planned construction of the Neckartal dam never died after Namibia's independence," he stressed. He also revealed that the construction of the dam was also discussed by a high-powered delegation of traditional and political leaders from the Hardap and Karas regions, the president and his Cabinet.
According to Mutorwa the government is fully behind the Tender Board, which determined its choice in what he termed a "transparent way".

"Those who are writing in the newspapers and going to court we do not condone them for doing so. The Tender Board and specifically the ministry of agriculture has nothing to hide and therefore we, as the implementing ministry for this particular project, are going to implement the decisions of the Tender Board," he declared to huge applause.

Mutorwa called on the contracting company to adhere to strict construction rules, adding that the government will not compromise on demanding quality work and value for money. The minister also assured all the communities, which will be affected by the planned dam construction, that government has set aside money for compensation purposes according to its compensation policy, especially the communities of Snyfontein and Berseba.

Karas Regional Governor Bernadus Swartbooi views the planned dam construction as essential to the region's drive for economic development. "It will not only transform and dramatically change the life of the people in the region, but that of the livelihood of the Namibian people," he said.

"As far as government is concerned there is no left or right or behind us, it is just forward," noted Swartbooi, referring to the court challenge. "You will not hold us hostage in this country," Swartbooi lashed out against the pending legal challenge.

Various representatives of the communities also came out in strong support of the construction of the dam. "We welcome this decision because it gives hope to our poor people in terms of economic development and self-sufficiency. However, we should take ownership of this project and not abandon it halfway," appealed Reverend Andries Biwa.

The Neckartal Dam Project will be constructed in the Snyfontein and Berseba areas, some 60 kilometres north-west of Keetmanshoop.

Posted on : 30 Nov,-0001

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