Candid Comment: Zim water crisis is clearly man-made

ZIMBABWE has truly become a nation of crises, and these seem to get worse by the day. Most will recall how catastrophic the fuel crisis was, beginning in the early 2000s.

Report by Itai Masuku

 
No doubt we’re still feeling the impact of the lost production time in our economy. Linked to the fuel shortages was the foreign currency crisis, which saw the development of black, grey and khaki markets for the same.

 

Then came the shortage of local currency, where the now defunct Zimdollar itself became a rare commodity as inflation constantly outstripped the currency’s value. Estimates of inflation range variously from a million to billions percent per annum.

 
As we entered the multi-currency regime, we did not leave the crisis syndrome behind. Zesa took over and to date we have a power crisis. However, we now seem to be facing the mother of all crises.

 
Several media have been publishing stories about water shortages in various parts of the country. One newspaper had a photo of Bulawayo residents lining up for water at a borehole.

 
Reports from many of Harare’s high density suburbs paint a grim picture of the situation regarding this vital liquid of life, with some being told they can only flush their toilets at 7.30pm on particular days.

 

 

That’s a real crisis.  Frankly speaking, there is no need to be experiencing water shortages in Zimbabwe.  We generally have sufficient effective rainfall annually except in the intermittent drought years which a study by the Zambezi River Authority way back in the 1950’s on the country’s hydrological cycle can more or less accurately predict.

 
As correctly pointed out by the online Water Guide: “In many countries of sub-Saharan Africa, water scarcity is caused by too little human intervention. This occurs when natural supplies are sufficient to meet demand but fail to reach users due to shortcomings in distribution or storage infrastructure.”

 
That’s the cause of our water shortages. The water crisis here is man-aided. It simply shows how much we do not plan. The population census conducted a decade ago surely showed the trends in population growth and we should have been prepared for that.

 
Those in charge of conducting censuses must know that the usefulness of the exercise lies in being able to make projections of future population growth and what needs to be done ahead of time. The census is not for enumerating the population for purposes of political elections, i.e. for constituency delimitation and gerrymandering.

 
May the true figures of the latest census be forwarded to the economic ministries so they can plan for things like water?

 
The current situation where we are using aquifers and boreholes is not sustainable in the long-term since they will eventually exhaust those underground reserves, and please note, reserves.

 
Experts say if withdrawals exceed the natural rate of recharge, the level of an aquifer or borehole will fall, eventually drying up altogether. We’re told the minister currently responsible for water is attending a water conference in China.

 
No sir, our solution lies in building more dams and increasing our harvesting of rainwater. It lies in improving our distribution network, the resources for which are in the country.

 
Reports say there are 48 000 large dams in place around the world, with many more under construction. I don’t believe the last part refers to Zimbabwe. We’ve been hearing rhetoric about the Kunzvi Dam, Tokwe-Mukosi and the Zambezi Water Project ad nauseum.

 

Without electricity and particularly without water, all this humdrum about economic growth and prosperity are more farcical than Charlie Chaplin. Time to get real.