Alleged pit latrines toilet saga

December 16, 2015, 2:56pm

Otavi Town Council

The Otavi Town Council has noted with concern the recent spate of negative media reports and individual opinion pieces against the so- called toilet deal in the town.

The reports and opinion pieces contain various incorrect facts purported to discredit the Town Council leadership as well as derail planned developmental projects for reasons known only to the authors. The reports further carried unsubstantiated claims of self-enrichment and alleged kickbacks promised to the leadership of the Otavi Town Council. Such claims are a figment of imagination of the authors and must be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.

For the record, the current leadership of the Otavi Town Council is proud about the sterling achievements over the past few years and we would like to highlight some of these as follows:

As you all know, Otavi was downgraded to a Village Council but was upgraded to a Town Council due to relentless efforts by the current leadership to bring development to Otavi. In fact, when the current leadership took over, Otavi Town Council had a bank overdraft of N$196,000.00 by July 2010 which presented serious cashflow and liquidity challenges that sometimes resulted in late payment to service providers and even delayed staff salary payments. I am proud to announce that under my leadership, the Otavi Town Council has increased its cashflow position by a record 1191% resulting in a positive bank balance of N$2 million as at June 2014. We are now able to pay all our operational expenses to service providers as well as staff salaries on time.

The financial reserves increased from a mere N$350, 000.00 which was bonded with one of the commercial Banks as a Guarantee (security) to over N$1.5 million to date. In addition, the assets increased by 329% over the past five years from N$22 million to N$98 million. Our Audited Financial Reports are now also available on the website of the Auditor General, should you need to do a quick research.

Otavi Town Council has been able to plan for roughly 6500 plots over the past five years and this includes the over 2000 serviced plots under the Capital Funding from Central Government and under Private Public Partnership Concepts.

Let me now turn to the issue of the alleged overpriced pit latrine toilets; From the onset, it must be stated that Otavi Town Council never contracted any company or individual to install pit latrines. Pit latrines or a pit toilet is a type of toilet that collects human faeces in a hole in the ground. They use either no water or one to three litres per flush with pour-flush pit latrines. On the other hand, the bubbler sanitation system, which is being confused with pit latrines – understandably so because of lack of exposure and misinformation - is a unique world class waterborne wastewater and sewage treatment system that turns a septic tank into water efficiency system. The bubbler system comprises of a tank which includes an inlet for effluent and a submersible aeration unit in the tank which aerates the effluent to promote biodegrading thereof, as well as a filtration unit. In other words, it is a sanitation water recycling system.

At this juncture, it is perhaps befitting to compare and contrast the cost implications of building conventional toilets versus the cost of the bubbler sanitation system. It goes without saying that any conventional toilet system would require the installation of bulk services, including a bulk sewer in order for the convention toilets be connected to the bulk sewer system.

The reception area is designed to accommodate about 300 household where over 1000 residents are living. The preliminary estimated bulk services for this area would therefore be as follows:

Sewerage: N$15 million including pump stations, Water services: N$5.5 million; Road and street lights: N$7 million; Other provisions: N$3 million

The estimated total cost for servicing the reception area would amount to approximately N$35 million. It is clear from the above that servicing the reception area to install conventional sewerage system would cost over N$20 million, which excludes the cost of construction of toilets and related accessories.

It is common knowledge that servicing land is a costly exercise. The Otavi Town Council recently completed this exercise by servicing Extension 4, through a PPP arrangement with Hangala Group which cost around N$70 million. Extension 5 in Khoaeb amounted to roughly N$27 million, excluding electricity, bitumen surfacing and street curbing and etc.

As a Town Council with a vision to turn Otavi into a city, Otavi Town Council continues to investigate various innovative ways to deliver cost efficient services to the residents of our town.

In August this year, the Otavi Town Council managed to successfully relocate about 300 households that were previously living at the now demolished single quarter housing units to the new reception area. The area where more than 1000 residents are living does not have sewer facilities and residents of the reception area are forced to make use of the nearby bushes to relief themselves when nature calls. This is not only unhygienic, but poses security risks to residents, especially women and children at night. It further risk the contamination of underground water as well as the outbreak of waterborne diseases such cholera.

The cost of the bubbler sanitation system to cover 300 household units is just over N$12 million and the project can be completed within six months. This means that residents of the reception area would have access to decent sanitation services within a maximum period of six months at a fraction of the cost.

It is against this background that Otavi Town Council approached GrowthPoint Capital, a majority Namibian owned company with minority shareholding by South Africans, to pilot the state of the art bubbler sanitation system. It must be noted that the bubbler sanitation system IS NOT A PITLATRINE.

The bubbler sewerage system uses naturally occurring micro-organisms which are added as a biological addictive to facilitate the digestion. In the filtration unit, the pathogens and remaining solids are removed which result in landfill water that is suitable for re-use in the toilet tanks. The bubbler system does not require serviced infrastructure like bulk sewer as it can be installed on its own with conventional or solar electricity to ensure that it functions independently.

Other benefits of the bubbler is massive savings on the local authority on the sewerage maintenance and honey sucking, saving on fuel costs as well as the fast delivery of dignified and modern sanitation to the residents.

The Otavi Town Council is proud to have piloted the bubbler sanitation system as a first for Namibia, although the technology is widely used in countries such as India, Sweden and South Africa on a larger scale. I trust that the above explanation puts the issue of the so-called toilet system into perspective and trust that the matter will be put to bed. The Otavi Town Council would like to reiterate that Council is driven by its vision to turn the town into city, hence we welcome innovation and out of the box thinking in delivering cost efficient services to our residents. We are firm in this resolve and will not tire, nor falter, and we certainly will not fail in providing decent and cost efficient services to our residents.