Water shortages situation as clear as mud!

WHEN it comes to information regarding urban councils’ water supply situation and the prospects of a solution to water woes, information peddled through the various media is often about as clear as mud!

Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja

Since Zanu PF won the July 31 general elections government’s deliberate post-poll spin –– informed by lofty promises –– has been that long-suffering residents will “soon” enjoy respite from water hardships. For most ratepayers, reeling from a decade of shortages “soon” cannot come soon enough.

For several weeks now the refrain has been “Harare water woes are set to ease”, courtesy of government’s intervention through a US$144 million loan from the Chinese Export and Import Bank. Upon the project’s finalisation, council claims, Morton Jaffray Water Works would produce 140 mega litres more than its current capacity.

As if to illustrate the water-crisis relief was nigh, Environment and Water minister Saviour Kasukuwere has reportedly ordered the Zimbabwe National Water Authority to pump water from Mtshabezi Dam 24 hours daily, instead of the normal eight hours to solve the Bulawayo water problems.

In what could easily pass off as political posturing, the minister was recently quoted as saying: “We cannot afford a situation where Bulawayo residents are not getting water every day. This is unacceptable and dangerous in terms of the health of people.

“I have instructed Zinwa to pump water for 24 hours from Mtshabezi Dam meaning we can now be able to supply Bulawayo residents with water throughout the week. We can say we now have enough water for residents to get the resource every day,” he said.

If only the situation was that simple; merely a matter of issuing magic-wand commands whose execution is remedial.
Needless to say the effects of Kasukuwere’s intervention are yet to be felt but for now Bulawayo residents are still enduring 72-hour water cuts weekly.

Elsewhere, Harare residents yesterday woke up to the bombshell that the water crisis would dog the city for three (more) years –– a consequence of the protracted rehabilitation of water machinery in the capital by the Chinese now underway.

Ironically Town Clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi has warned residents they would undergo three years of water rationing to enable the city to increase water output to 80% of the city’s requirements.

This begs the questions: How does Harare ration already scarce water with many households going for weeks without a drop of it? How much worse can it get? And what is wisdom in rolling out a prepaid meter installation exercise when water will be even scarcer for the next three years?

It is cruel that long-suffering residents’ hopes were raised in vain as every day without water is unbearable. For all the hollow promises, it is now crystal clear the situation will get worse before it improves.

Instead of merely warning residents to brace for increased water shortages, the authorities must state what realistic measures they are taking to alleviate the situation before another cholera disaster strikes again.