Mutorwa condemns mineral exploration near city aquifer

11 Jul 2015 15:00pm
WINDHOEK, 11 JUL (NAMPA) – The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) has condemned any mineral exploration activities in and around Windhoek’s underground water resources.
Speaking during a presentation delivered by officials from the City of Windhoek (CoW) after a ministerial site visit to the Windhoek Artificial Recharge Aquifer on Friday, John Mutorwa said exploration must not happen to the negative expense of the country’s underground water resources.
The aquifer is located close to the roadblock opposite Heroes’ Acre in the southern part of the capital. It has been providing water to Windhoek residents for more than 50 years.
“Exploration must not happen at the negative expense to this water resource. The environmental study is the way to go.
“Many rivers in the world give life, food and water, but once polluted because of industrial actions it is gone. Whatever water resources we have underground, or above the surface, must be used sustainably for current and future generations,” he noted.
Mutorwa’s response came after a local daily, the Namibian Sun, reported on the approval of Exclusive Prospecting Licences (EPLs) in the Southern Basin Aquifer area south of the capital without consultation with relevant authorities. The daily cited a report issued by the CoW at its last council meeting, which raised the concern that drilling in exploration for industrial metals can penetrate to a depth of 500 metres and the use of chemicals in the exploration process could easily pollute the aquifer.
Should a tanker carrying fuel or any other chemical overturn in this area, the entire water resource could be compromised should the contaminant seep into one of the riverbeds.
The CoW further expressed concern over the approval of EPLs in that area without consultation with the CoW Environment Management Division and some without environmental impact assessments (EIAs).
The City is worried about this important aquifer, which is an essential water source for residents in and around the capital. Namibia is also experiencing another drought and dam levels are critically low.
At the same occasion, the CoW Strategic Executive for Infrastructure, Water and Technical Services, Pierre van Rensburg assured the public that no exploration activity has yet taken off.
He warned that the southern area of the aquifer is particularly vulnerable due to the fragility of the rock surface, while the rock interface area is far more stable in other areas in the city.
“What has happened and what the City has noticed is that the Ministry of Mines and Energy gave out EPLs in this area without going the environmental route. We have noticed that one or two licences were awarded.
“The activity is not taking place yet but is a threat to our groundwater. We want to do everything to protect it. We are worried it might be polluted if such activities are going to be allowed there,” he said.
Van Rensburg further explained that normally an environmental study has to be done, and the City as a local authority, becomes involved to give comments.
He called on the Mines Ministry to co-operate with the City in discussing such activities to identify areas where exploration can be allowed.