Harare, Chitown's ticking time bomb

HARARE - “This time around, people will for sure be wiped off the face of this town,” Mhofu (not his real name) said as he dug his smoke-stained canines into the sinewy steak bought from an open air food outlet at Zengeza 4 paGomba, Chitungwiza — paKutakatira.

His friend had just told him of another death in Unit K, this time of a child who had succumbed to dysentery.

Water-borne diseases have become common these days as people struggle to get adequate potable water in the town’s residential areas.

The municipality has equally been struggling to provide reliable sources of the precious liquid to the town, sending residents into wild searches that have led them to unclean sources.

Chitungwiza and other surrounding towns like Norton get their water supplies from the City of Harare whose main source is Lake Chivero.

Currently, the lake is heavily polluted as a result of sewage and industrial waste that finds its way into the water body downstream of Manyame River.

The Manyame catchment area itself is choking from the raw sewage Chitungwiza spews into both the Nyatsime and Manyame rivers, despite millions of people relying on water from the two rivers.

Industry discharges a variety of pollutants in their wastewater, for instance resin pellets, organic toxins, nutrients and solids. Discharged waste from food processing industries contains pathogens, which are released directly into the water bodies — Nyatsime River all the way down to Lake Chivero via the Manyame River.

According to All Africa Global Media, animal waste, fertilisers, municipal, industrial and mining wastewater, urban storm water and runoff from agricultural, livestock and poultry operations have impaired the Zimbabwe National Water Authority’s capacity to meet the growing demand of water in Harare and surrounding towns.

“Water treatment costs have risen sharply in recent years because of excessive pollution. Passing the real cost to the consumer has been difficult as the majority cannot afford to pay market rates.”

The pollution levels at the lake have meant that treating water has become expensive for the metropolis.

Chitungwiza Municipality has for the past few years been redirecting raw sewage into Nyatsime River raising fears of polluting water in Manyame River and Lake Chivero posing a health hazard to consumers of Harare water.

According to Chitungwiza Municipality town clerk George Makunde, the Nyatsime Sewage Plant across the Nyatsime River is not working at the moment thus forcing council to redirect sewage into the river.

“There is an ADB funded renovation and upgrade of the Nyatsime Sewage Plant and hence the diversion was meant to facilitate this upgrade. There is a risk that this poses but we do not have an option. The Harare City Council is aware of the situation.

“What has compounded the problem is that we do not have an engineer at the moment as he resigned due to the land scam that hit council recently. If you want to get finer details on the sewage system in the town talk to the head of the unit, Gowero,” he said.

However, Gowero said he could not speak to the media unless expressly allowed to do so by his boss, the town clerk.

“I will not talk to the media or third parties unless I am cleared to do so by my bosses,” he said.

Manyame River is evidently heavily polluted, especially beyond its confluence with Nyatsime River.

Harare, Chitungwiza, Norton and Ruwa’s close to five million people are virtually drinking their own waste as raw sewage from these areas finds its way into Lake Chivero — the area’s main water source.

Environmental Management Authority (Ema)’s Education and Publicity manager Steady Kangata said local authorities were the main culprits in as far as the discharge of effluent into water bodies.

“Local authorities are expected to have functional sewer treatment plants so that they only release liquid waste when it is at acceptable levels.

“Councils are unlike companies that we can close until they regularise their operations.

“But someone will pay the cost of what we are not rectifying today. The high rates residents pay at times are a manifestation of this. But, as Ema, we continue to pester them.”

“Noone wants to go back to 2008,” said Kangata.

Kangata said about 59 local authorities across the country are upgrading their sewer plants with funds from ADB and their funding partners.

While this is happening residents of Harare, Chitungwiza, Norton and Ruwa would want to know for how much longer are they going to endure the situation.

Besides advocating for higher and more deterrent fines, Ema has been lobbying for the creation of an environmental court with the mandate to charge fines that are commensurate with the damage caused.

While current fines are not deterrent enough, more disturbing is the fact that some polluters were actually budgeting for environmental offences, implying that they were not taking the protection of the environment seriously despite the very serious threat this poses to public health.

It is a fact that the cost of treating the water is obviously high and the incidence of water-borne diseases cannot be ruled out especially when these water treatment chemicals are priced beyond the reach of many local authorities, most of which are reeling under heavy debt.

The identity of most polluters is not a secret, and authorities must ensure there is enabling legislative framework that will make polluters pay for the cost of water treatment.

Comments (3)

cde chombo please clean the city of Harare .can you really imagine shops are everywhere no one seems to care,who is really benefiting from this mess.the sunshine city is now the gabbage city with all dirty.iss this the city where we find the chairman of sadc, the chairman of African union is this what we call freedom mr president,if so then it stinks

wally jamie jnr - 25 February 2015

Ko mvura iripiko ,zvainzi zvagadzirika wani.

murapa - 8 March 2015

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