SW Radio Africa (London)

26 October 2010

Zimbabwe: Harare Council Cuts Water Supplies to Several Buildings in City

A massive health scare looms in some parts of the central business district in the capital after the Harare City council cut water supplies to several non residential buildings owing to non-payment of water bills.

The council is believed to have disconnected water supplies to at least 16 buildings in central Harare and creating a potentially serious health hazard. Most tenants in the buildings have outstanding water bills that run into thousands of dollars.

Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us Tuesday that some of the defaulters include government departments, parastatals as well as small to medium size businesses dotted around the CBD. The chronic loss of revenue through the non-payment of water bills remains the biggest concern for City Council.

Muchemwa said the municipality had pleaded with those that owe them money to pay up prior to disconnecting water supplies. No-one was forthcoming because of the huge debts they incurred when the country switched from using the Zimbabwe dollar. The use of foreign currency meant the cost of utilities escalated sharply and brought problems in converting the bills from the old currency to US dollars.

'The criteria used to come up with huge bills such as $300,000 has been questioned by some of the tenants. They've apparently vowed not to pay until there has been some investigation to find out what happened,' Muchemwa said.

But of immediate concern to the Ministry of Health is the unavailability of running water in some of the high rise buildings as it poses major health problems.

There are water born diseases such as cholera that is highly contagious. It causes severe diarrhea and vomiting that can kill a patient within hours.

Two years hundreds of people died of cholera across the country and a total of 11,071 suspected cases were reported during one of the worst ever outbreaks of the disease in the country. In a built up area an epidemic could be devastating.

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