Harare's water woes worrisome

HARARE - Not so long ago, maybe during the early eighties, if one had accurately foretold Zimbabwe’s present reality, quizzical looks would have met that assertion and he would have been taken to the nearest mental asylum for making crazy prophesies.

But alas! What was once a rarity has become the norm and the exception is now the rule.

It’s 3 am in the high density suburb of Warren Park D in Harare but the loud shouts at the borehole could be mistaken for a political star rally taking place at the “Freedom Square”.

Both the young and the elderly throng the open space in search of nothing else but the world’s most precious liquid.

The queue for water is long and winding and once in a while fights or severe exchanges of harsh words erupt as residents jostle to get the liquid in their containers.

We have become a nation of cannibals and ticks that devour till they fall off replete and bloated.

How did we sink to that level? The infrastructure is showing signs of strain, burst water pipes and sewer pipes generously pouring human filth that is flowing between houses.

Water shortages and sewage issues have steadily increased across Harare, particularly in the high density suburbs.

Lack of potable water is not only a crisis in Warren Park D alone but the same scenario is replayed in countless suburbs around the capital.

In some residential areas, people wait for water at boreholes for up to five hours a day, that’s close to a quarter of the day waiting to get water.

Residents in the affected areas expressed their displeasure against council authorities whom they argued charged them for municipal water even when the water flowed only sporadically or was contaminated.

This writer was shocked out of his skin as he passed through a block of flats in Mbare.

The sight was just unbearable. Raw sewage could be seen flowing along the streets from burst pipes, in which children frequently played.

The water shortage and the lack of functioning indoor toilets or community latrines sometimes gave the flats dwellers little choice but to defecate outdoors.

It is the right of each and every Zimbabwean to have access to reliable clean and safe water for various uses in the home, workplace and school among other places.

Until recently, Zimbabwe had a functioning water system that was a marvel to everyone, with access to potable water for 85 percent of the population.

In Harare, remnants of this system are still visible in the form of poorly maintained piped water and sewage system to which many residents are connected.

Disturbing is that the infrastructure has not been maintained which has resulted in the deterioration of the system also worsened by the rise in population.

Residents now find boreholes as the solution to their problems because they believe these boreholes — 200 of which were drilled by international agencies during the cholera epidemic — are the safest water option available, yet one-third of boreholes tested in Harare by Harare Water, the city agency in charge of water, showed contamination.

Immediate action from both local and national government to prevent the situation from getting worse is long overdue.

Something has to be done because regular shortages that sometimes last up to a week at a time have become part and parcel of residents’ lives.

People are resorting to storing water they can get in containers.

Others are relying on boreholes. But some residents don’t have access to boreholes, so they have to rely on other sources which include unprotected wells exposing themselves to diseases in the process.

Residents from Harare’s high density suburb of Glen View raised concern over health related issues that the water problems have created, citing increasing cases of cholera and typhoid.

The water borne diseases have thrived in areas with little access to clean water.

“The problem of water scarcity is escalating, people in the area resort to fetching water from unsafe sources and this causes diseases like cholera and typhoid,” said Nathan Kaduwo from Glen View.

The water and sanitation crisis in Harare places millions of residents at the risk of waterborne disease, Human Rights Watch said in a report released November 19, 2013.

Five years after cholera killed over 4 000 people and sickened 100 000 more, the conditions that allowed the epidemic to flourish persist in Harare’s high-density suburbs.

The 60-page report, “Troubled Water: Burst Pipes, Contaminated Wells, and Open Defecation in Zimbabwe’s Capital,” gives a vivid description of how residents struggle to gain  access to potable water and sanitation services resulting in them resorting to drinking water from shallow, unprotected wells that are contaminated with sewage, and to defecating outdoors.

The conditions violate their right to water, sanitation, and health.

The report is based on research conducted in 2012 and 2013 in Harare, including 80 interviews with residents, mostly women, in eight high-density suburbs.

Harare City Council spokesperson Leslie Gwindi was recently quoted as saying the water shortages are a result of maintenance work that the council is currently working on.

“The ongoing water shortages in the city should be understood in the context of the on going upgrading of the Morton Jaffray water treatment plant.

We apologise for any inconveniences caused that residents are experiencing during this period.

On average we are producing 470 mega litres per day against a demand of 900 mega litres a day”, he said.

The government should chip in and take measures to improve the sunshine city’s water and sanitation crisis.

This may include investing in low-cost sanitation and water strategies.

These include providing community toilets and pit latrines, and drilling and maintaining boreholes so that residents do not have to rely on contaminated sources.

It also sounds logical to introduce a sliding fee scale for municipal water to provide affordable water for low-income families.

Comments (2)

Probably the main problems wat causes drainage blocks is small pipeline , people throwing foreign objects like stones, plastic etc, and also uncorverd mainholes. for cleaning , unblock and repair we need big trucks to help , which is what I can get, so if interested my contact number is 0027719346170.

Mujuru Ngonidzashe - 23 April 2014

How can the water & sewage problem be sorted when council bigwigs buy themselves luxury cars with funds allocated for such ?? What do you expect?? i give up with this government !!!!

Kheda - 17 May 2014

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.