By Morten Rønning
"We are looking at where the dam will be built, not whether it will be built". said the Vice-Minister Jesaya Nyamu. The statement was made, according to the newspaper The Windhoek Advertiser, at a public meeting on construction plans held at the capital Windhoek on the 9th of March It was further made clear that the department held the so called alternative B, which is closest to Epupa waterfalls, as the best. A preliminary study made public at the end of last year, showed that this alternative had the largest negative consequences for the Himba nomadic people and the environment in the area.
The Epupa-construction on the Kunene river has a lot of protest from the local Himba people. The dam will, with alternative B, inundate 400 square kilometres. This will affect the lives of more than 1 000 people as they would lose their land and another 2 000 who use the area for winter grazing. It will also inundate 160 old graveyards.
-You in the government are advised by Namibians who neither know the area nor those who are buried at Epupa. Isn't this a declaration of war.?, said Himba chief Uahenuna Tjitaura.
The consortium in which Norconsult is a part has also considered other locations with less negative consequences, among others, the Baynes-alternative, where the dam will inundate 300 square kilometres. This location, on the other hand, is looked at by the department as insecure in terms of electricity production, and considerably more expensive than alternative B. Both Norconsult and NORAD have earlier expressed that other alternatives than hydropower will also be considered. Both gas, coal and wind/solar-energy has been named. After the Minister's statement, it is clear that none of these alternatives are any longer of current interest. Namibia imports today a large part of its power from South Africa. Trond Vestern, responsible for the project in Norconsult, repudiates the Vice-Minister's statement:
-We know about the Vice Minister's statement, but will have to just repeat that no decision is taken before our work is finished.
"If it is built, it is our death!"
Jon Øyvind Selmer, PVC Elected- Appeal by the local people against the Epupa dam, at a meeting in Windhoek 31.10.96.
The Himbas are nomads living along the Angolan border and subsist mainly from cattle herding and agriculture. Besides the loss of grazing land and traditional graveyards, the Himbas feel suppressed by the authorities, however promise compensation and develop-ment for the local population. The Himbas fear the consequences of an increased activity in their area. The authorities allure the local people with jobs during the construction period, as many as 5 000 has been quoted. Many Himbas are sceptical to the consequence this would have on their traditional way of life. Already today their area is pressured by other groups of people.
The Himbas are supported by the environmental movement in Namibia in their struggle against the construction. Part of the press have also begun questioning the roll played by NORAD, together with Sweden's SIDA which also has supported the prefea-sibility study. In an editorial column in the newspaper The Windhoek Advertiser on the 11th of March this year, com-parison is made between the present govern-ments practice and the pastcolonial rulers. At the same time NORAD and SIDA are cornered. The newspaper more than suggests that the job the two development agencies have paid for, is entirely no other than, to parrot the point of view that has already been taken by the authorities. The newspaper asks what the agencies are still doing here other than to dress the decision of the authorities with a scientific concept.
NORAD's head of section for southern Africa, Kjell Storløkken, repudiates the allegations in the Namibian press: This is not right. We have got confirmation from the department in Namibia that no decision will be taken before the prefeasibility studies are completed.
(One USD is worth approxi-mately 7 Norwegian kroner.)
Norconsult in Namibia
Norconsult, in co-operation with Swedish Swedpower, Namibian Burmeister & partners and Swapro, began prefeasibility studies for the hydropower project at the Kunene river in spring 1995. The company has one person stationed in Namibia, and one responsible for the project working partly in Norway and partly in Namibia. The work will be completed at the end of 1997. NORAD has granted 45 million kroners for the prefeasibility study.
Norwatch Newsletter 5/97