President Geingob expected to make desalination plant sale announcement

The long-expected takeover of the desalination plant at Wlotzkasbaken, which is still solely owned by mining giant Areva, might finally be answered soon. “We expect President Hage Geingob to make an announcement regarding the sale of the facility to government soon,” said Hilifa Mbako, Managing Director of Areva, yesterday at a press conference.

Namibia has a top asset, sitting right at its coastline, which is currently the saving grace after the almost the entire country has been hit by a severe drought. “We are not in the water generation business and wish to help government alleviate the current crisis. That is why we made a good offer two years ago,” Mbako said during the press briefing.
For the first time Mbako also gave an indication concerning more details about the value made to government. At the same time he criticised defamatory past media reports, which have exaggerated the figure greatly. “We are not here to make a profit. We offered the plant to government for the same value of the investment. We only wish to recover the costs,” he said. The Erongo desalination plant was constructed at a value of US$200 million. “That is the price we offered it for. We did not adjust it to the current exchange rate,” he continued saying.

If government indeed would pay the above-mentioned amount, the plant would change owners for what can be described a “bargain”. According to Suzie Nkambule, General Manager of Aveng Water, the company currently operating the desalination plant, a brand new facility of roughly the same size would now cost in excess of US$300 million to construct. “We are now waiting for a counter-offer from government, which is expected to be made by President Hage Geingob,” Mbako said.
During the press conference Mbako noted that currently the plant is supplying the national water utility NamWater with about five million cubic meters of potable drinking water per annum. This water is used to supply the uranium mines as well as the coastal towns. He added that NamWater has indicated recently to up the supply in the near future, depending on the demand by its customers. “We are not here to make a quick buck out of water. We must realise that the country, especially the coast, is facing a very serious water supply situation. It is just not possible to rely on underground resources anymore, as these sources have been exhausted,” Mbako said, and added: “I shudder at the thought, where we would be now be, had Areva not built this plant. We would have been faced with a catastrophe.”
To reiterate Areva’s commitment to help out during the current water crisis, Mbako said that during the recent December holidays the water supply from the facility to Swakopmund was increased substantially, but Areva sold this water at a subsidized price. “The water demand more than doubles during the season and it was our intention, to help out the town,” he said.

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