Dam the rich

2014-04-06 14:00

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Nandoni Dam was supposed to bring water to villages outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo’s Vhembe district, but 10 years after being completed, the dam is a playground for the rich rather than a water source for the poor.

The dam’s serene banks are dotted with double-storey houses and guesthouses under construction.

At weekends, fishing enthusiasts and speedboat lovers flock to Nandoni.

It is full of camping and picnic spots, including the stunning Royal Gardens, where people can braai, have a dip in the swimming pools or just relax in the shade of the trees.

The land falls under the Mulenzhe Tribal Authority. Its spokesperson on development issues, Maluta Mabannda, said the tribal office was charging between R1?000 and R4?000 for a piece of land, depending on the size.

But residents’ association chairperson Solly Baloyi insisted that people were paying more than R100?000 for a prime stand on the banks of the dam.

Baloyi said the residents of about 16 villages had been moved to make way for Nandoni and, in the process, people were “not equitably compensated, ­especially those who had lost rich ­agricultural land”.

“Now we have a property boom with mansions cropping up on the south bank of the dam.” Mabannda admitted that well-known politicians and senior government officials were among the property owners, but declined to give their names.

“There may be problems with water supply at the moment, but there is a big spin-off from this dam project.

“Demand is growing for people wanting to build holiday houses, especially in the area demarcated for that purpose,” he said.

But Baloyi and Mabannda agreed that the dam wasn’t fulfilling its main role?– that of providing water to villagers.

Mabannda said that only two villages out of about 16 were getting water from Nandoni, which was officially opened in 2004.

“The few who are drinking from ­Nandoni are also not enjoying water all the time due to inconsistency in the ­supply. Elsewhere, residents rely on community boreholes and whenever there is a problem with those, they are forced to fetch raw water from the dam.

“There is a purification plant right next to the dam and that’s where the villages close to it are getting water from, but they still can’t totally rely on it ­because of the inconsistent supply.

“I understand that the water from the purification plant here is pumped into a reservoir about 10km away in ­Malamulele from where it will then be redirected to us,” he said.

In Thohoyandou, resident Alfred ­Singo has a great view of Nandoni Dam from his hilltop house.

But he said he would gladly give up the view in exchange for water. “I have lost hope after all the empty promises. The taps in the village are always dry.

“We thought when Nandoni was built that our problems would ‘soon’ be over, but that ‘soon’ has become 10 years now,” Singo said.

A community leader in Malamulele, Noel Manganyi, said that “only about 3%” of the area’s residents were getting drinking water from Nandoni.

“A reservoir was built in Malamulele, but it is leaking due to poor workmanship. I think this is also contributing to the delay in the supply of water from Nandoni.

“At times, some areas around Malamulele go for four days or more without clean running water and they’re forced to drink from the rivers,” Manganyi said.

Giyani Municipality spokesperson Steven Mavunda said the only reason the area’s water shortage was easing was because of “abundant rainfall”.

Mavunda said villages relied on Nsami Dam, from which the municipality drew and purified water.

At Nandoni, water gushes from a large outlet pipe and over the spillway into the Luvuvhu River. On the perimeter, workers are still laying and connecting bulk water supply pipes intended to move water to purification plants in Thohoyandou, Malamulele and Giyani.

And it is here that the delay lies?–?the bulk supply project has been tied up by court battles with contractors.

In one instance, pipes that were ­already laid had to be removed after it was found that the contractor had used poor-quality pipes that were prone to bursting.

Mava Scott, spokesperson for the ­department of water affairs, said 110?000 people in 21 villages in the Malamulele west area were being supplied from the Nandoni water treatment works.

Scott said the project was intended to supply 800?000 people, with the ­potential of reaching 1.1?million people.

Nandoni Dam has a gross storage ­capacity of 163?million cubic metres.

Scott said new pump stations, reservoirs and pipelines were being ­“implemented” by the department.

He blamed delays on technical failures on the Lukalo-Lambani, Vuwani and Valdezia pipelines in 2007.

The department insisted that ­Nandoni would be fully on line and ready for all communities in the area to use by the middle of this year.

Scott did not respond to questions about how much Nandoni had cost so far. However, sources close to the project suggested that the amount could be more than R2?billion.

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