15 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Water Everywhere Yet There Is No Water!

AFTER the Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River runs deep and wide all year round, frothing and seething as it snakes down on its journey to vomit into Lake Kariba. Between its southern bank and Hwange Town is a vast swathe of dry and arid communal lands, occupied for years by Nambyan villagers, the autochthonous people of the land.

Here it might or might not rain for periods of up to three consecutive years. Scorching heat, drought and hunger are as sure as the day rising and setting, the following day. It is the norm and very accepted.

Generation after generation of the Nambya and their Tonga neighbours have lived and gone, leaving behind this scourge.

Since time immemorial or rather since the establishment of Hwange Coal Mine and the subsequent town, huge pipes have drawn water from the Zambezi River, passing through the communal lands.

From Makwa near the river to Mwemba, Mashala, Kasase up to Chachachunda communal lands under Chief Hwange, the villagers watch and jump over water pipes as they carry the life saving liquid from Zambezi River to Hwange town, yet their homes are dry.

It is common to see women carrying buckets on their heads for long distances while water pipes passes through their villages.

It is equally common to see ox or donkey-drawn carts travel long distances to riverbed wells or distant boreholes to fetch water in drums, while circumventing water pipes that supply water to Hwange Colliery.

Except for a few old boreholes that now need attention, villagers mostly survive on wells dug on the banks of an intricate of rivers that drain into the Zambezi.

There, the villagers share the water with their livestock and, at times wildlife as the areas is also teeming with wild animals.

"We have grown up with water shortages while the pipe lines pass through our villages and in some case they pass by our doorsteps.

"While we know there is water in the pipes and we even cool off by sitting on the pipes on hot days, there is no single piped water scheme.

"Hwange Colliery has no courtesy even to establish water points in the villages and for one reason or the other our grandfathers and fathers have learnt to accept this as a norm.

"The young generation is now questioning why we can have water, water everywhere and yet there is no water? This is why there is now an increase in the number of damages to the pipes as people try to get water from them," said Nathan Tsuma, one of the villagers.

Villagers say when they visit Hwange Town, they are shocked to see gallons of water gushing out from burst pipes that remain unattended for long periods.

"You see water gushing out and flooding streets in town yet, it will have passed through our villages, without us getting a drop.

"The same pipes that come past our villagers without leaking a drop of water, leak big time in town and we wonder what is there for us.

"It is us the women who travel the long distances to fetch the water. What is painful is that we know that the pipes that pass through our village are carrying the same water we want," said Nona Nsingo, a mother of five.

Of late, there has emerged a generation of young villagers who are perforating the pipes here and there to get the liquid and the colliery does not seem to mind.

There are now many places where the pipes have been perforated and villager are either fetching water or watering their livestock.

"It started at one point and when it went without repair for three weeks, villagers realised it was not a big problem if they fetched water there. The colliery, which was expected to repair the pipeline has never come and its now seven months.

"Some people are now taking advantage of that and vandalising the pipes. But the point is this can be done properly if the colliery just allocates water points per village in an orderly manner," she said.

In fact, when a close analysis is done, the area can be turned into a green belt of agriculture through establishing irrigation schemes that can avert the severe hunger that has stalked villagers over the years.

In this case of water and water everywhere yet there is no water, villagers will end up vandalising every place.

Hwange Colliery corporate affairs manager Bazil Dube, says it is expensive for the company to divert the water to the villages, since there was no plan to do that when the pipeline was erected in the 1940s.

"In the first place, when the pipeline was constructed in 1940s, no villager lived along it or by it. Again the plan that was used did not cater for such changes, although we feel for the people, living along it.

"The other thing is that the pipeline's design is difficult to change. It becomes too expensive for us and we might not have that kind of money. We might have to come up with a new social responsibility project to deal with the problem.

"This is the reason why we have not prosecuted people who are perforating our pipeline. We want to continue educating them about the need to preserve the line and that we are considering another water project to assist them, which we are still working on," said Dube.

What the future holds for the colliery and the villagers, only time will tell.

Rutendo Mapfumo is a journalist based in Hwange she can be contacted on mapfumo.rutendorwashe@gmail.com

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