PERSISTENT water shortages in Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, have forced local authorities to deploy bowsers in several high-density townships to ease the situation.
Water rationing has also intensified, with each household being allowed only 60 litres a day
Parts of Bulawayo have been without water for the past two months, mainly because two of its major dams have dried up, leaving the city with the option of two other sources that authorities fear are also fast running low.
While the municipality blames poor rainfall for the shortages, it has also chided the central government for failing to take decisive action to solve the city’s recurrent water woes.
Matabeleland, where Bulawayo is located, has been dogged by chronic drought that has affected both water supplies and food security. The city’s executive mayor, Japhet Ndabeni Ncube, described the situation as “dire and most unfortunate”.
“The problem is far beyond our control, and what we are waiting for is the rains. The real issue is that our major sources, Upper Ncema and Umzingwane dams, have gone dry because of the ongoing drought,” Ndabeni Ncube said.
“We have, however, done all we can as a municipality to alleviate the situation, but still the water is not adequate,” he said.
Last week the situation deteriorated further as bowsers failed to provide water because the municipal fleet had no fuel, forcing many township dwellers to negotiate with borehole owners, who hiked prices by charging $20 000 for a bucket of water.
Residents complained because they were forced to use the nearby bushes as toilets.
“Our toilet is stinking and we are also dirty because there is no water. We can no longer afford to bath; it’s very unhygienic. What makes the situation more unbearable is that it is summer time and the sun is very hot. We just pray that there is no outbreak of diseases,” said resident Anastasia Dube.
Last week the local authorities finished drilling 22 boreholes in the city’s outlying areas, which provide an additional 300 cubic metres a day. Bulawayo’s population of slightly over a million people usually consumes 140 000 cubic metres a day but at the moment the city is only getting 90 000 cubic metres.
An engineer with the Ministry of Water Resources, who wished not to be named, said Matabeleland’s water problems could only be addressed by implementing the Matabeleland-Zambezi Water Project, an ambitious pipeline scheme for obtaining water from the Zambezi River to supply towns in the perennially dry region.
The project was first mooted by the former colonial government over a century ago but was quickly shelved due to high costs. President Robert Mugabe’s government also had a go at implementing the scheme but has been hamstrung by lack of funds.
It would take a whopping $500 billion – way beyond the coffers of the government, which is battling high inflation and a critical shortage of foreign exchange. — Irin.