Residents brace for more misery as more rain is forecasted
“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink”
This 1797 piece (The rime of the ancient mariner) by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge could best describe the distressing scenes at Gweta village.
At least more than half of this gateway to Makgadikgadi Pans is submerged in water.
You’d think in a country where water scarcity is as old as the legend of the ‘soft rocks’, a sight of a trickling stream of water would be music to the ear.
Not to the people of Gweta people. They’re fed up.
With a reported forecast of more rain in the coming weeks, residents of this small village 100 km from Nata and 205km from Maun are already bracing for the worst.
The normally dry village was turned into a swamp last year following torrential downpours associated with the 2016 cyclone Dineo.
Both Gweta and Zoroga villages were flooded and the A3 road rendered impassable, cutting off the three villages from the rest of the world.
Before the village could recover from the disaster that left many poor and homeless, disaster struck again early this year with torrential February rains.
Just as the situation was about to return to normalcy students found themselves needing an airboat to go to school again as Hamba bicycles and donkey carts were once again rendered useless as waist deep water covered the village with some farms fully submerged in the water.
When The Voice team visited the unfortunate village last Saturday water levels had subsided and some parts of the village were accessible with a car and donkey carts.
The water has however left 151 people from 22 families homeless and over 1183 people in need of aid.
Two gentlemen Nshalule Mongwegi (30) and Alec Kitso (27) who were dripping wet after crossing a pool of water to cross to the other side were glad to see The Voice van in the village.
“Please let the world know about our plight. We are suffering in this village. Take pictures and tell the world,” said Mongwegi.
The Voice met with the Village Disaster Management Committee chairperson, Ledule Baraki who solemnly narrated the heart wrenching story of the Gweta floods.
According to Baraki, from the 292 families who sent out an SOS, only 200 have been assessed.
He further said they have recorded 175 collapsed houses.
“Something urgently needs to be done in this village, the Roads Department particularly needs to act and find a lasting solution to this flood problem because we all believe they are caused by a badly designed road,” he said.
Baraki said the root of the problem is the road which does not have enough culverts to direct the water into the pans.
“Initially this village was on an island, water passed around the village as it sat on elevated ground towards Makgadikgadi pans,” Bareki said.
The population grew people, he explained and more people were awarded plots on lower ground therefore interfering with the natural routes of Makgadikgadi bound streams.
“We have four lakes about 10 km from Gweta. These are ‘Kaunxara’, ‘Odiakhwe’, ‘Nxasen’, ‘Tsokotshaa’ and ‘Xha’ which spill over into the pans. But the water route has been compromised as there are no culverts,” he said.
Baraki was frustrated with the length of time it has taken the Roads Department to rectify the situation.
A temporary remedy by the committee to direct the water away from the village backfired as the water now flooded farms.
“About nine farms are completely submerged while some are partially covered by water. The loss in monetary terms is monumental. Remember these farmers spent a lot of money and some even lost their equipment like planters, trailers and ploughs,” he said.
“We are working well with Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Council Secretary and Deputy District Commissioner. The only people missing in action are Department of Roads,” he added with a tinge of disgust.
While he’s happy that the water level are subsiding Baraki is equally concerned over the possibility of water pollution.
“Water Utilities assured us that the water is safe to drink, but I wish we had resources to consult private professionals,” he said.
Baraki’s bone of contention is that one of the only two boreholes supplying the village has been flooded and to this day remains submerged.
“The water also flooded the sewerage and surely this water will come into contact with portable water in the other borehole,” he said.
“We need urgent help. We have been warned about more rain in the coming weeks and this village won’t survive a third catastrophe,” said Baraki with a swiping hand gesture.
As we parted ways with the concerned Chairman at the main Kgotla I suddenly felt the need for a glass of water.
The kgotla stand pipe was a few metres away from me but for some reason I opted to purchase a rather pricey bottled water from a nearby general dealer.
The thirst in Gweta is real and government has to do something urgently!