Thursday, August 17, 2006

News: Caprivi Flood Areas Cut Off From Development

Namibia: Caprivi Flood Areas Cut Off From Development

Surihe Gaomas

Although Impalila Island in north-eastern Caprivi is destined to host a luxury country-style hotel soon, it is cut off from the mainstream transport network ultimately stifling tourism and denying market access for many local farmers.

Over the past 16 years, frequent flooding to this low-lying area has destroyed roads and bridges, making it difficult for villagers on the island to have access to development like the rest of the country.

Other low-lying areas like Kasika and Schuckmansburg are also trapped in the low-development category due to their inaccessibility for crucial business ventures.

In view of this, the Chief of the Masubia, Kisko Liswani III, informed the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Doreen Sioka, during her courtesy visit to Bukalo recently that people in these areas live under very difficult circumstances.

"There are no shops on these islands and people resort to buying in neighbouring Zambia and Botswana," said one of the chief's senior councillors. Even when people travel or go shopping, getting past immigration - particularly on the Botswana side of the border - proves difficult at times.

The Munitenge (chief) at Bukalo requested the use of ferries for river transport as a solution to this perennial problem. Currently, people use dugout canoes, but this could be perilous in rivers infested with crocodiles and hippos.

Concern was also raised that the lack of ferry transport causes numerous problems for the area as a whole.

According to the Regional Poverty Profile on Caprivi, not only does this affect access to services, access to markets to sell produce, access to agricultural inputs and drugs, but this also results in the reluctance of qualified teachers to teach in remote areas and absenteeism of educational health and other staff who have to go to town to receive their salaries and buy needed supplies.

"In the worst cases, this sometimes took them out of remote villages and away from their work for up to a week at a time," reads the report.

Government was thus requested to urgently look into providing some kind of ferry transport for flood-affected islands in the Caprivi.

Besides farmers, tourists and business people, the elderly are also affected, especially when they have to go and collect their monthly pension payouts. Some hire other people to fetch it for them, but that means paying not only the hired person but for the canoe as well.

"For the past three months, people have not been getting their pensions and at least a ferry or boats are required to transport these people during such times," said one senior councillor.

While most Caprivians go to Botswana for shopping, others reason that the prices of goods that they buy are more expensive due to foreign currency exchange rates.

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As a fish farming area, " people are really keen on selling their fish in Namibia, but there is no road or boat transport to take them there," said a man. It appears that there is not much development in the floodplains of the Caprivi as 'war clinics' that were built during the previous colonial dispensation are still there.

Residents requested parliamentarians to come and see the lack of development for themselves. "When someone gets sick, there's no helicopter or hospital around. But during the past, we used to have big ferries that travel from Katima to Impalila," said another senior headman.

Questions were also raised about what happened to the 2003 flood disaster money that was meant to purchase a ferry to assist flood victims.

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