Namibia: No flood plan for Mariental

By Hoandi Gaeb


The Mariental Flood Task Force (MFTF) has no plans on the table as yet to address a possible flooding of the town this rainy season.

New Era approached the MFTF in the wake of mounting fears among residents of the town of another flood, like the one of February this year, which devastated property worth N$100 million and displaced many families from their homes.

Chairman of the MFTF, Piet Heyns, told New Era that the clearing of the Fish River as proposed by many people would be an extremely expensive exercise.

Heyns said there is no plan at the moment in place that will bring about instant solutions for a problem that has been in existence for so many years already.

"Even if we had started clearing the Fish River of reeds right after the 2006 flood, we would not have been able to finish the job by now. Remember, it is almost eight months already now."

According to Heyns, the clearing of the Fish River of reeds, which will cost more than N$200 million according to the latest estimates, may not also be the best and most effective option for the flood problem of Mariental.

"In fact, during the flood of 1923 there were no reeds nor a dam in that area, but still the town was flooded," he contended.

Heyns said the Mariental problem needs patience, planning and time in order to find a lasting solution.

"When Mariental was flooded in February this year, there was no flood control plan or flood management plan, etc. There was in fact no emergency evacuation plan in place. Why?" he asked.

The bulk of the claims made against insurance companies, which exceeded N$100 million, was for movable property such as cars, etc. The claims would have been much lower if there was an emergency evacuation plan in place to warn people early enough to remove their property.

"We need to put a plan in place which will warn the residents of the town to move out of the danger zone as quickly as possible, and they need to stop complaining about the clearing of the reeds in the river, " he said.

Heyns said the chances of another flood this year are remote as history proves that the town has never been hit by floods in two consecutive years, except in 2000 when two floods hit the town during the same rainy season.

However, Heyns further contended that even if the clearing of the Fish River of reeds started immediately after the flood, there was no guarantee that the town would not be flooded again.

"Nobody can predict whether the town will be saved from floods only because we have cleared the Fish River of reeds," he said.

It is against this background that the MFTF is calling for patience and understanding as the magnitude of the problem is of the extent that no quick fixes will bring a lasting solution to the fears of the community.

"The studies and researches that are currently under way will be completed by next July and only then will all stakeholders be in a position to bring a well tested solution to the table. Until then, we need to be patient and put the necessary mechanisms in place in order to minimise the risk of flooding this rainy season," Heyns concluded.