Harare fails to cope with water delivery

HARARE - Harare city is battling to supply clean water to its residents as the population continues to balloon owing to high poverty levels in the rural areas where desperate villagers are flooding urban centres in search of better economic opportunities and better social living conditions.

Water is erratic in most Harare suburbs with others having not had a single drop for the past four years.

In instances when water is available in some parts of the city, it is so dirty and prone to diseases.

In August 2008, Harare in particular and Zimbabwe at large experienced a serious cholera outbreak that claimed almost 4 000 lives and affected in excess of 100 000 other people.

Harare Residents Trust, HRT director Precious Shumba said the main water works in Harare and the distribution network were established sometime in 1952 to cater for a few thousand households and properties habituating in Harare Metropolitan Province.

“But certainly not for the nearly three million people in 2012 especially without any major investment in the upgrading and maintenance of existing water infrastructure.

This becomes a mammoth task for any local authority, let alone a bankrupt government fighting internal incoherence, policy inconsistencies and a partisan bureaucracy, unwilling to professionally discharge its mandate.

“The result of such a scenario is one of stagnant community development and political bickering over all issues that benefit the ordinary people,” said Shumba.

He said given the state of the economy, there is very little foreign direct investment coming to Zimbabwe in general and Harare in particular.

“With the increase in the number of people internally relocating to urban centres, themselves experiencing high rates of unemployment, and stagnant economic growth, the threat of overburdening existing water infrastructure becomes a reality, never to be ignored by central and local government.

“There is a general mismatch between resources available and the increase in the demand for water services. The resultant effect is overcrowding, deterioration of social services, increased urban poverty, mounting tensions within the communities and intense conflict between major service providers and consumers as rights holders,” said Shumba.

He said HRT has been closely monitoring developments in the water sector and the situation has been one of confusion, conflict and ad hoc interventions.

“As a residents’ movement, the HRT believes in clearly defined systems and approaches to dealing with persistent water shortages, chaotic billing, water delivery, treatment and management, the upgrading and maintenance of water distribution networks.

“The organisation has consistently raised concerns on the state of preparedness of the local authority as represented by Harare water in terms of dealing with water shortages, balancing demand and supply, and most importantly coming up with concrete and sustainable measures to combat out breaks,” said the HRT director.

Charles Mazorodze, HRT coordinator said the City of Harare should have a multi-sectorial and dimensional approach to dealing with the multi-faceted challenges including water supplies, the expansion of water sources, and sewerage reticulation and disease control among other challenges.

“The 2008 experience with the cholera outbreak should provide important lessons to city planners and project managers in the department of water, city health, waste management and treasury departments to prepare for all unexpected public health risks, guided by the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:13), the Urban Councils’ Act (Chapter 29:15), the Environment Management Act (Chapter 20:27) and the Public Health Act (Chapter 15:09).”

He said with this clear approach to planning in public health, the City of Harare, in collaboration with its external and internal stakeholders, would have emerged with a comprehensive strategy and policy to deal with waste and water management, and sewer reticulation.

“This would entail that there is a public document accessible to residents, the media, city employees and development partners to inform and guide implementers on dealing with public health emergencies like the current typhoid outbreak, driven by water challenges,” he added.

The ongoing inaction in dealing with the typhoid outbreak brings to the fore the fact that Zimbabwe as a nation does not have a national water policy, 32 years after independence.

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