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Byo water quality under spotlight

BY STAFF WRITER

THE borehole water quality for the city of Bulawayo has come under spotlight after a human rights group — Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) — challenged the city fathers’ pronouncement that the underground water “was good”.

The clash between council and the rights group emerged this week after MIHR requested for borehole water quality test results. Council declined to release the test results.

MIHR coordinator Khumbulani Maphosa claimed that: “Most residents relied on borehole water as an alternative water source for potable water needs. This happened at a time when the country and the world was grappling with the deadly Covid-19 pandemic which demands, among other protection measures, constant washing of hands with clean running water and good hygienic practices. Despite this dreadful context, the BCC (Bulawayo City Council) only managed to test a paltry 6,57% of the boreholes for water quality, down from 50,28% in the previous year (2019). In the 2019 test, 18,75% of the boreholes had tested coliform positive and 2,27% had tested fecal positive. Of the 23 boreholes that were tested in the year 2020, 17,39% tested coliform positive and only one tested fecal positive.

“In this regard, it is both erroneous and misinforming for the BCC to make an authoritative policy pronouncement that “the quality of water in most boreholes was good” as there is not enough current and valid evidence to warrant and qualify such a statement. MIHR, therefore, recommends that the BCC refrains from using such an unsubstantiated statement in its policy reports (full council reports).”

The MIHR wrote to council on May 21, 2021, asking to access information on borehole water quality for 2020.

On April 6, director of engineering services Simela Dube told the 3 346th full council meeting under the Future Water Supplies and Water Action Committee that the water quality was good.

Dube had reported that a few boreholes had a high degree of saltiness because the water is drawn from deep underground.

He also said bacteriological quality of borehole water could not be guaranteed since the water was untreated and subject to contamination at any time from environmental factors like sewer overflows and bacteriological contaminated soil.

“MIHR demanded that council discloses how many public boreholes are in Bulawayo’s high density and how many were tested in year 2020 during the city’s acute water shortage period as stipulated by the Zimbabwe Water Policy and to be availed with the report of the borehole water testing results which informed the affirmative BCC report that ‘the quality of the water at most of the boreholes was good’,” reads the report.

Council is yet to respond to the latest MIHR demands.

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