STAKEHOLDERS have called on government to declare the calamitous water situation in Harare a state of national disaster so as to attract international aid.
The city, whose population is an estimated three million, relies on the heavily polluted Lake Chivero — a water source dismissed by a recent 2014 University of Zimbabwe study as a giant sewer — for potable freshwater.
The City of Harare uses a cocktail of 13 chemicals costing US$3 million per month to purify the water, which retains the greenish hue that accumulates at the bottom of containers and produces a foul smell after being pumped into homes.
Many other tests have concluded the water is not safe to drink as it contains faecal matter, thereby exposing residents to Escherichia coli, a type of bacteria that cause diarrhoea.
Harare has been the epicentre of water-bone cholera and typhoid diseases which have claimed thousands of lives in the past.
In addition to limited water sources, the city also has a poor water reticulation system which was laid down in the 1950s to cater for just over 300 000 residents. The system has not been upgraded to match the booming population which has grown by more than 10 times since the colonial era.
Harare city council has been also struggles to raise adequate funds to purchase purification chemicals which require it to get foreign currency — currently in short supply in the country.
Community Water Alliance programmes manager Hardlife Mudzingwa said declaring the situation a national crisis is the first and most important step that the government urgently needs to take.
“The first port of call would be to declare the water situation a national disaster. It helps in terms of gathering resources for the solutions, resources which the government might not have. Calling a spade a spade will encourage various stakeholders including the private sector and the international community to land a hand towards solving the current problem,” Mudzingwa said.
Water @Home Private Limited managing director Richard Chitakatira said: “This is a national disaster and we now need to manage the water. Announcing the severity of the situation will conscientise people to realise it is not just a Harare city problem, global warming, El Nino effects are also contributing which means the problem will soon spread to various corners of the country. Declaring the situation a national disaster will push for a more proactive approach,” Chitakatira said.
He castigated government bodies for not being able to combine their efforts and suggested that the intervention of the private sector may help curb the problem although this can only be done after the situation has been acknowledged to be indeed a national catastrophe.
“Public sector has been borrowing funds but mismanaging, it is high time they open up to private sector, because besides providing the much needed funding, private sector will also bring in management, which will do away with the residents’ culture of not paying their bills,” he said.
Harare Clerk Hosiah Chisango said the city has no choice but to continue with the water cuts as they are only getting 66megalitres per day from Prince Edward dam.