The Sunday Mail
The year 2019 will go down in history as the season in which water, or the lack of it, shook the core of Zimbabwe’s socio-economic well-being.
An El-Nino-induced drought came and went, only spraying below average rainfall on us, thereby jeopardising food production and electricity generation.
Resultantly, industry is still struggling to this very day.
The situation was exacerbated by tropical Cyclone Idai that ravaged the eastern parts of the country, leaving a trail of destruction that Manicaland folk will live with for a very long time, especially as some of their loved ones perished.
While Cyclone Idai is long gone, it is without doubt that somewhere far away, another wild weather phenomenon is brewing in the belly of the earth or far off at sea.
Natural weather conditions are unavoidable, but their effects can certainly be mitigated.
For now, weathermen are telling us that the rainy season is upon us.
The expectation is that the rains will wash away any remaining traces of food insecurity and eventually improve electricity generation, among other benefits.
Yet we are told that normal rains, with a bias towards below normal, are expected throughout the 2019-20 season.
What are we doing about a possible eventuality of inadequate rains?
We have had to put up with the effects of a drought, we have had to bear the brunt of flash floods, and we are still recovering from the devastating effects of Cyclone Idai.
Zimbabwe has early warning systems in place and, therefore, we should never be taken by surprise by any weather phenomena.
Technology allows for the prediction of weather conditions almost a year in advance. We can choose to avert the effects of such extreme weather conditions through disaster management.
That knowledge is only valuable when we use it to our advantage as we plan for the morrow. The increase in the frequency of extreme weather conditions across the globe due to global warming calls for proper mitigation frameworks.
Yet there is a feeling that the nation is not cushioned enough against natural calamities. For instance, major cities’ drainage systems are blocked with garbage, thereby encouraging urban flash floods; while rural communities in low-lying areas comfortably remain in their houses, waiting to be evacuated when calamity strikes.
Those who built houses on wetlands continue to watch as the water levels rise while disturbing news filtering from Chimanimani is that Idai victims are already drenched in muddy puddles as the rains seep into their tents.
After the heavy losses they suffered early this year, the traumatised survivors are now exposed to all sorts of water borne diseases.
Grim memories of Cyclone Idai are still too fresh because we lost too many of our loved ones during that disaster and we certainly do not need a repeat of that.
Now that we know that we might receive normal to below normal rainfall, what are we doing about it?
Should we not, even at community level, be looking at harvesting the water that we are receiving right now for irrigation later on?
The million-dollar question is whether the nation is investing enough resources in preparation for any undesirable eventualities, be it a flash flood or a drought.
It is sincerely hoped that the answers to these pertinent questions are in the affirmative. The Civil Protection Unit (CPU), which is mandated with executing the very noble task of disaster management, needs to be capacitated financially.
The CPU needs to be more proactive instead of being reactive in dealing with natural disasters. While climate change is a reality, it should not control our destiny. Instead, our innovativeness decides our fate.
However, innovativeness can only come through the collective efforts of Zimbabweans and various other stakeholders.
The welfare of the people of Zimbabwe is the heartbeat of the country’s socio-economic well-being.
Let us do the best we can with the resources at our disposal.