Prepaid water meters make comeback at Arandis

… As council launches truck-port and logistics hub

By Jade McClune

SPEAKING at the ground-breaking ceremony for a highly anticipated development at the town, Arandis Mayor Risto Kapenda said it was a distinct honour and pleasure to be present for the Arandis Logistic Hub and Truck port Launch.

He said Arandis was established in 1976 because of the uranium mining activities of Rossing Uranium Limited, known as one of the world’s largest open-pit uranium mine. Arandis was declared a town in 1994 and the mandate to run the town has since been managed by Arandis Town Council.

“The extraordinary volume of movement of goods require the support of well-planned and designed terminal ports, road networks, railway infrastructure and support. Arandis Town Council’s five-year strategic plan (2019-24) includes new focus pillars, inter alia joint venture participation, public utility supply, industrialization and support services, as well as logistics.”

The aim is to “position Arandis as an investor friendly and ever-growing town, which offers significant potential for sustainable development,” Kapenda said. He noted that the new Arandis Truck Port Project belongs to Arandis B2 Truck Port, Total Namibia and Bena Capital and that this project is funded by the Development Bank of Namibia.

The services provided at the new truck port would include refueling, maintenance, ablution facilities, food and beverage services, recuperation and waiting demarcated areas. The new logistics park is expected to provide support facilities for banking, postal services, warehousing, container terminal, cold storage and mid production facilities.

Kapenda said the new logistics hub and truck-port represent a milestone that signifies Namibia’s commitment to development. “In addition, the aforesaid projects support the core mandate of the Ministry of Works and Transport to improve and fulfil the Namibian business sector, its people and the entire SADC region with an enabling environment for business to prosper.”

Prepaid water metres

At the same event, Arandis Town Council also launched a new and rather controversial project to attempt to boost its ailing finances by promoting the installation of prepaid household water meters, which critics have described as “self-disconnecting devices”, because it no longer requires municipal officials to physically disconnect the water supply of households in arrears, as the taps simply stop running once the prepaid credit on the water meter runs out.

It has been noted at places like the DRC in Swakopmund that prepaid water meters can present a substantive health hazard and risk to life, for example in cases of fire. If the household members do not have and are not able to rapidly secure credit for the water meter during a fire emergency, the chances of dousing even the smallest flame become a daunting task.

It has also been noted that the prepaid system could be harmful to people suffering from medical conditions that restrict their mobility or due to old age find it difficult to access the water credit recharge vendor points, or if they need access to water to take regular medication, such as TB sufferers, but are unable to do so due to the prepaid water meters.

It has been suggested that it would make more sense economically to install prepaid metres at large mines in the region that use the bulk of fresh water, as there could be significant gains on the interest accrued from prepaid water services to the mines, whereas at household level the prepaid water system is likely to degrade the quality of life of a community that is already hard-pressed and in the grip of economic deprivation and depression.

Restricting access to household water supply to those who can afford to pay in advance is also likely to worsen the health prospects of the poorest and further exacerbate public health hazards, such as the spread of epidemics like Hepatitis E and other infectious diseases, like cholera, that proliferate due to lack of sanitation and basic household hygiene. Such disease outbreaks and rampant epidemics have been a common feature of Swapo-run councils across the country.

Kapenda on Thursday said the latest prepaid water project would be a collaboration between Arandis Town Council, Item Engineering and the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development. “There are impoverished households at Arandis that have been without household water supply for years, and the option of installing prepaid water services is as a solution to both their and the council’s monetary problems,” he said.

Arandis had previously installed similar prepaid water metres in the 2000s, but it is not immediately clear why the prepaid system collapsed or what the socio-economic results were. Kapenda said the new Arandis Prepaid Water Meter Project is a “social ring-fenced project” funded by the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development. “The project’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it is geared toward addressing the plight of the most vulnerable members of the society,” he said.

“This project will connect all long-disconnected members and households within the communities and afford them the ability to take control of the consumption of the most basic of human need, which is water. Hence, no single resident of Arandis Town shall remain without water and sanitation ever after.” He believes that outstanding debt will be simultaneously collected while stimulating economies of scale.

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