Zimbabwe: Govt Moves to Avert Harare Water Crisis

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(File photo).
25 April 2019

Supplies of chlorine gas started arriving at Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant yesterday ensuring that water treatment continues in Harare after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) released US$150 000 to the city council.

Minister of State for Harare Provincial Affairs Senator Oliver Chidawu said the water situation in Harare was dire and Government was working on a raft of measures to solve Harare water woes after the city approached his office.

As of yesterday according to mayor Cllr Herbert Gomba, the city did not have any lime in stock, HTH chlorine (for yesterday only), no sulphuric acid, chlorine was supplied yesterday, four to five days' supply of aluminium sulphate and there was enough carbon in stock.

"Council has made us aware. We have a very serious situation. The statistics that I initially had were not correct. It is worse than I thought. We were under the impression that the installed capacity of Morton Jaffray was 800 mega litres a day. It turns out the installed capacity is only 600 mega litres a day," said Minister Chidawu.

"Of that 600 (MI), only 200 (MI) is being pumped and 60 percent of that is being lost. We are only pumping 80 mega litres against a demand of 1 800 mega litres. We are putting a paper that we want to present to Government so that it gives this matter the urgency it deserves otherwise Harare has no water."

Minister Chidawu, however, said he could not disclose the details until Cabinet approves the proposal.

"The situation is dire. This morning I had a meeting with officials from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority who have appraised me of the current situation.

"I am also in contact with Harare Water Department who also appraised us. They told us about the shortage of foreign currency. If we get the US dollars, we will be able to bring back up to 300 (MI)," Minister Chidawu added.

Mayor Gomba said, "Supplies of chlorine gas have started arriving at Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant ensuring that water treatment continues.

"We continue to engage the monetary authorities (RBZ) for payment to other suppliers of different chemicals to be done: the arrival of chlorine gas is as a result of the RBZ releasing US$150 000 last night (Tuesday).

"The question of when the water challenges will be resolved depends on RBZ availing foreign currency and I have highlighted to the Governor on the need of urgency in dealing with the situation."

"If only we can get foreign currency, we will be able to replenish our supplies. Most of the chemicals are imported and only a few are produced locally by Zimchem and Zimphos," he said.

He said it was difficult for council to procure foreign currency on the interbank market at the rate of RTGS$3,1 to US$$1.

"The city cannot afford it. Harare would need RTGS$9 million per month to buy US$3 million, if the rate remains the same,' he said.

He added that they had reduced pumping to accommodate the remaining water treatment chemical stocks, hoping to get new stock and avoid closing the plant.

In a statement on Tuesday, HCC corporate communications manager Mr Michael Chideme said they had engaged the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe over the timely release of foreign currency.

"Harare City Council has enhanced engagement with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe over the timely release of forex to companies that import water treatment chemicals from South Africa and China.

"Currently our water production is very depressed. We are managing only 100 million litres against a daily average of 450 million litres.

"Our available stocks of chlorine gas can only last us for two days," he said.

He said the RBZ had promised to release an initial US$150 000 towards the importation of chlorine gas.

"We use a tonne of chlorine gas daily. Chlorine is used as a disinfectant to kill bacteria in the water.

"The city requires US$3 million every month for the purchase of water purification chemicals.

"The other chemicals we use are activated carbon for removing odours, alum sulphate and sodium silicate for removing solid particles, lime for pH regulation, sulphuric acid to reduce pH, HTH for removing algae and ammonia for chlorine retention in the reticulation system.

"Stocks of the other chemicals are also at depressed levels," Mr Chideme said.

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