Brace for more thirst till 2017

The water situation in Harare and Chitungwiza is bad. And it is about to get worse.

This follows revelations that dams supplying Harare — which in turn supplies Chitungwiza with much of its water — have dropped to critical levels.

Coupled with behind-schedule rehabilitation of Morton Jaffrey Water Works, the low water levels have resulted in reduced output.

This has seen Harare reducing supplies to Chitungwiza while it is also understood that Norton and Ruwa have been affected too.

Chitungwiza has since notified residents of its plans to review water rations from twice-a-week to once-a-week.

“Due to low raw water levels being experienced in dams that supply Harare City, from where we get treated water, Chitungwiza Municipality is experiencing enhanced water shortages,” said Chitungwiza town clerk Mr George Makunde in a statement.

“As a result, the municipality is contemplating reviewing the water schedules to adopt one where most customers would get water for one day, down from two days.”

Due to the depleted levels in Lake Chivero, water quality has declined to a level where Harare has been forced to use more money on chemicals for treatment.

This could spell doom for Chitungwiza.

The town has in recent years been afflicted with typhoid and cholera as people resorted to shallow wells and other unprotected water sources.

Concern has been raised about the snail’s pace at which works to overhaul Morton Jaffray have been going.

Work on the water treatment plant began in 2013 and was originally earmarked to be finished in May this year. This meant residents have had to endure dry tapes for four days per week, as the repairs were undertaken.

Harare City officials now say repairs will be completed in 2017, meaning residents will endure another year of often dry taps.

In his 2017 council budget speech last week, acting chairperson of the finance and development committee councilor Luckson Mukunguma admitted that the project was dragging.

“The refurbishment of Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant, the Firle Clear Water Pump stations and Crowborough Waste Water Treatment Plant is lagging behind schedule,” he said. “The refurbishment of the aforementioned treatment plants and pump-stations was a three-year project which started in 2013 and should have ended in June 2016.”

He blamed the glitch on the slow disbursement of funds from the Export and Import of Bank of China which is bankrolling the project.

Mr Michael Chideme, the Harare City spokesperson, confirmed that the repairs would continue until 2017. He, however, denied that this will lead into a crisis, adding that affected municipalities outside Harare can speak for themselves.

“We have said before that the rehabilitation of Morton Jaffray will continue until 2017,” he said. “And that there are suburbs in Harare experiencing unscheduled water cuts is not true, I would like to know which places these are. About challenges in Chitungwiza or other towns they can speak for themselves, we cannot speak for them.”

Chideme said only Manyame Dam and Lake Chivero had significant available water. He said Lake Chivero has five months of water left.

Combined Harare Residents Association executive director Mufundo Mlilo said Harare was in its current situation because of the low priority given to water services.

“If you look at it closely you realise that water services have never been prioritised for the past 10 years,” he said. “Now if you consider that 55 percent of council’s budget should be going to water you wonder why such an important project is taking long to complete. It is not good for public health that we should continue cutting water especially now that we are going into the rain season where there can be disease outbreaks.”

On reduced supplies to Chitungwiza and other towns, Mlilo said: “We have had complaints about that but we have not had full details of it. I should say going forward these towns should be focusing on having their own bodies.

“As for Harare, they should be planning knowing that they are growing into a region and not just a city, so it is their mandate to supply water.”

Zimbabwe Institute of Regional and Urban Planners president Mr Percy Toriro said for too long residents have endured water shortages and it is now time for the municipality to put an end to it. “They are the ones who should be explaining to us why the project has taken so long,” he said. “But for us who are on the outside we can say the residents have put up with this problem for too long. It’s certainly time for council to put an end to this.”

The Harare City Council has allocated US$50 million for water and sanitation in its 2017 budget. Ironically, this budget will mainly be funded by increased water sales.

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