1 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Find Lasting Solution to Water Woes

Photo: Capital FM
Taps remain dry in Harare.


Water Resources Development and Management Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo on Wednesday admitted that he has failed to ensure that Harare gets clean water.

The minister has not only failed Harare as Bulawayo, the country's second largest city, is already dry.

There are reports that water levels at Lake Mutirikwi, which supplies bulk water to Masvingo city, have reached critical levels.

In fact, the water level at the lake is only at 15 percent.

All this spells disaster for the cities that require constant supply of water to function fully.

The effects of the water shortages are dire on the ordinary people.

Efforts on economic turnaround that are starting to bear fruits will be adversely affected.

Industries cannot operate without adequate water in as much as Minister Nkomo himself cannot go to his office when there is no water.

Yet the minister is offering piecemeal solutions to the water problems, especially in Harare.

Allowing private operators to provide water to the public, like what Minister Nkomo did on Wednesday, is the height of admitting failure.

The private water suppliers are there to make money. And this means water will be out of reach to the majority of the people of Zimbabwe.

What does the admission by Minister Nkomo that he has failed his mandate to ensure cities have clean and adequate water mean?

Obviously, some will argue that the failure is collective for the Government. But in the court of public opinion, the minister should bear the brunt for his failures.

In other countries such failures would result in the resignation of the person or people concerned, or their dismissal.

Surely, the people of Zimbabwe cannot experience water problems forever.

What use will be Minister Nkomo to the Government if he does not have solutions to the water problems affecting Harare, the country's capital, and Bulawayo, the second largest city?

In fact, town's and cities across the country experience perennial water problems and there does not seem to a solution in sight.

Placing the burden of sourcing water on the residents will never be the right way to go.

Already, the private companies Minister Nkomo allowed to provide water to the residents in Harare are charging US$60 for a 5 000-litre delivery.

Very few would afford water, a basic commodity for that matter, considering that the amount might be out of their reach.

A lasting solution is needed to provide clean water to the country's towns and cities.

The Kunzvi Dam, which has been hanging in the balance for a long time, needs to be built as soon as possible to supply Harare with potable water.

But the situation regarding the dam is confusing.

In 2010, Minister Nkomo confidently told the nation that Government had secured a partner for the project.

Construction of the dam was expected to start in April last year.

That was the last time we heard about the new partner.

In July this year, Minister Nkomo said Vinci of France and Group Five of South had been engaged to construct the dam.

They were supposed to have started work by now.

Yet nothing is happening at the dam site to indicate work will start anytime soon.

All this shows lack of seriousness with the project.

The situation is worse in Bulawayo where Minister Nkomo is accused of politicising the water problems.

Nothing is happening on the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project and the Mtshabezi-Umzingwane pipeline.

Yet the two are viewed as the only solutions to the water problems affecting Bulawayo.

We would not want to waste our time reminding Minister Nkomo that access to clean potable water is a human right.

Access to clean and safe drinking water is one of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals and Zimbabwe certainly does not want to be left behind as other nations move towards meeting this target by 2015.

We ask for measures to be taken urgently to ensure that water is accessible to the people.

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