Impalila Island Residents Call For Development

17 Jul 2019 12:00pm
By Sheehama Aupindi

IMPALILA ISLAND, 15 JUL (NAMPA) – Twenty-nine years after Namibia gained its independence, residents of Impalila Island in the Zambezi Region still lack essentials like clean water, electricity and access to proper healthcare.
Situated in the far east of Namibia, Impalila has a population of around 2 000 people and sits on the border with Zambia and Botswana alongside the Zambezi and Chobe rivers.
The island has infrastructure like a police station, a school that goes up to Grade 9 and a clinic.
Residents however have to risk their lives crossing the Chobe River with a small boat to buy necessities at Kasane, just a kilometre away in Botswana. For every trip to Botswana they also have to go through the immigration processes at the border point, with many complaining that the process causes unnecessary delays during emergencies.
The residents are calling on the government to come to their rescue and provide them with these basic services and to also construct a bridge and road for easy access to Katima Mulilo, 130 kilometres away.
“They come here during elections asking us to vote for them, but still we have no electricity, no clean water and no doctor at the clinic,” Mervellous Simobe told Nampa during a recent visit to the area.
Simobe said because there are no decent shops in the area, they do all their shopping in Kasane in Botswana, which is an expensive exercise because of the exchange rate and factoring in transport.
“We do all shopping in Botswana which is expensive because N. dollars 100 is around 65 Pula only,” she said.
Simobe further said with the lack of a doctor at the clinic, for emergencies they have to cross the river to Kasane by boat before being transported to Katima Mulilo by car.
“We need a doctor here, the Botswana border closes at 16h00 and if there are medical emergencies at night, one has to wait until 07h45 when the border opens again,” she said.
Percy Kamwi, a nature conservation student at UNAM, said he has been living at Impalila for eight years and has not seen signs of development in the area.
Kamwi, who operates a taxi boat on the Chobe River between Kasane and Impalila during the holidays, said a bridge is also sorely needed in addition to electricity and clean water.
“There is no electricity and people cannot even buy a television or fridge. Every day people cross the river going to Kasane, risking their lives as they could get attacked by a crocodile or hippo for a simple item,” he said.
Kamwi also noted that the fare for crossing the river is quite high considering the distance travelled.
“It is just 400 metres and one has to pay N.dollars 10 for that,” he said.
Another resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the government should provide the road for easier access to Katima Mulilo and a bridge that connects Impalila with Kasika some 15 kilometres away, especially since Kasika is situated on higher ground which could be helpful during floods.
“We need a road straight to Katima Mulilo. The Botswana border closes at 16h00 and one cannot cross for an emergency at night,” he said.
Approached for comment, Zambezi Governor Lawrence Sampofu said plans for most of the developmental projects are already in the pipeline.
Sampofu said Roads Authority has carried out surveys at Impalila, but they are currently busy with the Namalubi-Luhonono road.
He said N.dollars 12 million has also been set aside for the construction of a road from Nakabolelwa to Kasika, which will also mean easy access to Katima Mulilo from Impalila.
Sampofu added that NamWater and NamPower have also surveyed Impalila and the work is pending.
“NamPower has already surveyed the area; they wanted to take electricity from Botswana or Zambia but negotiations were unsuccessful and now they will just pull from the Izilizinzi grid,” he said.
The governor added they are currently supplying Impalila with water purification tablets to purify water. There are also plans for NamWater to set up a water treatment plant.
With regards to calls for a bridge to be constructed, Sampofu however said this would not happen any time soon.
“A bridge between Kasika and Impalila would be a multi-million dollar project. It will cover about five kilometres and you need a lot of money for that,” he said.
Sampofu said a road to Kasika can only be constructed once the Namalubi-Luhonono road is completed.
He further stated that the clinic at Impalila was supposed to have a full-time doctor.
“There was supposed to be a full-time doctor at the clinic but doctors are not enough. A doctor is also supposed to visit the clinic twice a week, but due to transport issues sometimes it does not happen as planned,” he said.
Sampofu said these problems are not only experienced at Impalila, but elsewhere in the region as well.