ENVIROMENTAL concerns over the construction of a coal fired power plant at Walvis Bay have reached fever pitch, with experts warning that subsequent emissions could damage the coastal town’s environment and cost the economy an estimated N$100 million in lost revenue from the fishing and tourism industries.
According to Walvis Bay entrepreneur Wilfred Hundt, if government goes ahead with the construction of the proposed coal fired power station, the tourism and fishing hub will lose an estimated N$5 billion in tourism and fishing revenue over the next 50 years, the estimated lifespan of the power plant.
Government has received much pressure to give the go ahead for construction of the controversial power plant as part of a response to the national power crisis, but environmentalists continue to voice their opposition.
NamPower’s hasty decision to push on with the planned coal powered plant has raised red flags over the potential consequences of what has been described as ‘the dirty option.’
Minister of Environment and Tourism Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah announced this week that her Ministry had received more that 200 environmental impact reports and mining claims since the beginning of the year, most of which were for projects situated in environmentally sensitive areas.
“Many of these development initiatives are being proposed in environmentally sensitive areas mainly within our protected areas and national parks as well as in water-deficient ecosystems,” Ndaitwah said.
“As a result, these development projects require that good environmental management tools should be in place to minimise the negative environmental damages and to ensure sustainability.”
Hundt, a conservation activist, warned that a coal fired power station would destroy all marine life in the lagoon, and possibly promote acid rain and other negative environmental circumstances.
“For example, in the first half of 2008, due to unusual weather conditions the sea temperature rose from 17°C to 26°C. As a result, hydrogen sulphide was released; oxygen levels dropped and algae bloomed. N$45 million in damages occurred when some 18 million oysters died.
“More than 250 jobs were lost in the industry which affected 1,500 children, families and dependants”, he said.
He assured that these conditions would worsen once the proposed coal station begins to discharge hot water into the bay. “During winter the temperature could increase from 11°C to 21°C and in summer from 21°C to 31°C.”
Hundt predicted that the lagoon would heat up by as much as 10°C and a decrease in oxygen levels would lead to ‘dead’ water.
He claimed that nuclear power is the answer. “We have uranium, lots of it judged by the world turning its focus on Namibia. We have no earth quakes, no floods in the Namib Desert, low population density and devoid of towns and settlements in most of the desert. There also won’t be any corrosion on mechanical or electronic equipment. This makes Namibia the ideal place to store spent uranium.”
A spokesperson for the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Mines and Energy, Joseph Iita confirmed that thorough feasibility and environmental studies would be carried out prior to the commencement of the project. He also said that the study would address pollution concerns.
Meanwhile, John Kaimu of NamPower said that the person dealing with the power companies’ feasibility studies was not available, but assured the Informanté that NamPower always do their homework, before tackling a project of this magnitude.
The General Manager for power operations at NamPower, Rainer Jagau was not available for comment.