Drought in Namibia may cost 40 000 jobs in construction and infrastructure sectors

Up to 400 000 dependants may be affected in the event that major construction projects around Windhoek are halted as a result of the water crisis due to the drought. The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has estimated that the water crisis may cost 40 000 jobs.

Bärbel Kirchner, consulting GM of CIF said that it is critical for government to be 100% focused on establishing additional water sources immediately. She said related projects must be fast-tracked and must receive total priority. “Without water, all other development priorities cannot be met either. We recognise how critical the situation is and that measures to save water are being adhered to.”

Kirchner said the construction sector is being singled out with regard to the consumption of water. She said water is a requirement in the industry. “City of Windhoek cannot just decide that companies should stop building without considering the enormous implications. If that were to be the case, over 40,000 jobs would be at stake, with the implications that between 320 000 and 400 000 dependants are likely to be affected. There are also contractual implications that must be recognised,” she said.

It says most Namibian companies in Namibia’s construction sector do not have the option at this stage to find alternative markets for their products and services.

Kirchner said the federation had requested a meeting with minister of agriculture, water and forestry, John Mutorwa.”At the meeting we were informed about the current supply of water in the Khomas region, that existing resources would not be sufficient to meet the demand for residential and commercial users, unless all users immediately reduce their consumption by 40%.”

She said the water crisis has been coming for over 20 years, considering the growth of the city and central urban population and the desert climate. Kirchner said demand can be reduced by determining the locality of projects and not by stopping all building and construction work altogether.

Namibia has experienced a massive boom in the construction industry since 2010, especially over the last four years, with an average of N$2,26 billion worth of building plans approved over this period, according to IJG Securities. From a GDP perspective, the Namibian construction industry contributes about 4% to total GDP.

According to IJG, of major concern are the current water restrictions in the central part of Namibia. NamWater announced on 18 February that water supply to Windhoek will be cut by 20% in an attempt to postpone dams running dry from August this year to April 2017.