Candid comment: Time running out for Harare water project

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EVEN taking into account the enormity of water shortages that have dogged Harare for a decade or so, it came as a shock that only 29% of the capital’s population of just over two million has access to piped water.

By Stewart Chabwinja

According to the recently released Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey’s 2014 report, the majority of the city’s residents — accounting for 68,7% of the population — rely on boreholes, wells, spring and, in the wet season, rainwater for domestic purposes.

So much for a city that likes to regard itself as modern, and has ambitions of attaining World Class City status by 2025.

The revelations come after an Easter period during which most of Harare went dry due to all-too-frequent “maintenance work”, this time at Warren Control Pump station, in addition to protracted water infrastructure rehabilitation works elsewhere in the city.

Taken in this context, the claims by Harare City Council that residents would experience significant improvements in water supply after it fully implements an infrastructure rehabilitation project funded by a U$144 million loan from China are a hard sell.

Moreso, given that Harare brought the initial April 2016 deadline for completion of the water and wastewater rehabilitation forward to June this year.
In June 2014, Harare claimed there had been improvements in water supply, with areas such as Hatcliffe, Mabvuku and Tafara that had become perennially dry reportedly accessing limited supplies of water — a claim summarily dismissed by residents’ pressure groups.

Water treatment plant Morton Jaffray had increased water processing capacity by 72 megalitres following plant and equipment rehabilitation using part of the Chinese loan, council claimed last December. There was even a tour of Mabvuku/Tafara to witness “improvements” in water supply.

But if indeed there was any such amelioration of the water crisis, it must have been a drop in the ocean, so to speak. In several areas the water supply situation has, if anything, deteriorated in stark contrast to council’s claims.

And as reported in our sister publication Newsday this week, Mabvuku residents are yet to enjoy their rights to water with continuous supplies a faded memory of 15 years ago.

Currently when water comes, maybe two days a month, it is so dirty residents say they can hardly wash their clothes with it. Many other suburbs across the class divide face a similar plight.

Back in February 2013, then Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda told residents they were likely to start enjoying clean and improved water supplies in a few months after the city procures pressure reducing valves to minimise loss of 60% of treated water through leakages. It is not clear what happened to that plan; dead in the water perhaps?

The day is fast approaching that Harare must fully account for the Chinese loan by delivering on its promise of vastly improved water supplies. It would be a pleasant surprise if the city fathers prove otherwise, but evidence thus far suggests regular water supplies could remain a pipedream.

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