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Floods a reminder of vulnerability to climate change – Schlettwein

MINISTER of agriculture, water and land reform Calle Schlettwein says the floods in the country’s north is a reminder that when disasters strike, the most vulnerable communities suffer the most

He said this in his keynote address at the Regional Association for Hydrology and Water Coordination (RAI-HWCP) meeting at Swakopmund on Wednesday.

The minister recently returned from an assessment trip to the flood-stricken north, where homesteads have been submerged in floodwaters, households had to move to higher grounds, and where schools had to avoid children having to wade though deep waters to school.

Four people have died to date due to the floods.

“Vulnerable communities in climate hotspots are being blindsided by cascading climate disasters without any means of prior alert.

“It becomes our task now to invest in early warning systems for better preparedness, adaptation and mitigation,” Schlettwein said.

He said a comprehensive early warning system should also include lessons learned from past events in order to continually improve responses to potential future climate, water and related environmental hazards.

He said while Namibia has a network of rainfall and hydrological stations and also uses advanced technologies to monitor water and weather phenomena, the situation calls for more concerted efforts from all role-players to better resource regional and national early warning systems and the generation of relevant data.

Partnerships, and transboundary and international cooperation are imperative, the minister said.

While too much water is causing death, loss and destruction in Namibia, the country is still considered a water-scarce country, he said.

Namibia therefore remains vulnerable to weather extremes, he said.

Schlettwein said water is a scarce resource “and remains unevenly distributed in the country”.

He said sophisticated and integrated infrastructure is required to bring clean water to places where it is not readily available.

Namibia is currently relying on three water resources, namely groundwater, surface water, and additional desalinated water.

He said Namibia is currently rolling out a national water sector support programme, bringing about an integrated water supply system countrywide at a cost of N$10 billion over the next five years.

The supply system comprises a mix of water generation and distribution infrastructure with the objective to provide for adequacy of water supply of acceptable quality until 2037.

“A secure water supply is not only dependent on water availability, but equally on the financial and human capacities to develop, operate and maintain the required infrastructure to bring clean water to all consumers,” he said.

Schlettwein said water resources are under increasing pressure due to demographic, economic, social and climatic changes as well as the ever-growing global demand for energy, food, and water.

Better management of water resources requires strengthened transboundary cooperation, application of water diplomacy tools, climate-proof security policy and improved water governance, he said.

The RAI-HWCP is one of the committees of the World Meteorological Organisation Regional Association for Africa and is also the think tank on hydrology for Africa.

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