Water Resources Development minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the country was yet to get the authority from the other riparian states although his ministry had made a proposal to the countries.
Riparian states are countries that are connected to a river. Rivers riparian to the vast Zambezi include Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique.
“We have not yet obtained permission to draw water from the Zambezi,” Nkomo said. “We need to inform other riparian states of our intensions. A proposal has been submitted but no permission or agreement has been reached.”
Nkomo said there has been extensive correspondence between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“The Zambians asked for a comprehensive environmental impact assessment report and that was submitted and we are still awaiting feedback. We are in constant touch with them,” he said.
The now renamed National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP) is seen as a permanent solution to end water crisis in the Matabeleland region. The NMZWP wants to draw water from the Zambezi through the construction of a 450km pipeline to arid Matabeleland.
Unreliable water supply has in the recent past forced several companies to relocate from the region, particularly Bulawayo, to other provinces. This has reduced employment levels.
Last week Nkomo said under current estimates, a whopping US$1,1 billion was needed to finance the three phases of the project.
This involves the completion of the Gwayi/Tshangani Dam, laying of a pipeline from the dam to Bulawayo and its connection to the Zambezi.
Nkomo further suggested that the cash-strapped inclusive government would implement the project through a joint venture partnership with a Sadc country. He said he would soon embark on a regional tour to hold talks with several countries on the possibility of a joint venture.
Botswana could be the partnering country, Nkomo hinted.
“I will be in Francistown on Sunday to meet my counterpart to discuss the water project. Botswana has shown interests in also drawing water from the Zambezi River but they want to access the water from Bulawayo. A joint venture is a possibility,” said Nkomo.
Last Thursday Nkomo was in Zambia to discuss the Zambezi Water Course Commission.
The Matabeleland water project was first mooted way back in 1912 but has been shelved over the years due to funding constraints.
The total cost of the pipeline has sky-rocketed over the years and Nkomo’s estimate is almost double the US$600 million previously budgeted for in 2007.
Nkomo said the current cost of laying the pipeline is pegged at 18 million rand/km and three companies would be awarded the tender.