|Feature by Vusumuzi Dube|
|Saturday, 28 July 2012 21:11|
Will Bulawayo water problems ever end?LAST week the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) announced that it would be launching a water-shedding exercise that will see consumers having to endure at least 48 hours a week without any water supplies.
The local authority also announced that they would be tightening the water-rationing schedule, with limits radically reduced.
Eastern suburbs are now given a daily consumption limit of 350 litres down from 400 litres while Western areas now have a limit of 300 litres from 350 litres.
Residents found using a hosepipe will be required to pay a fine of US$1 500, up from US$200.
To many, this announcement by the City Fathers came as no surprise as the city suffers perennial water shortages, and every year there is either the tightening of water-rationing or introduction of water-shedding.
To add to that, the city has also been affected by deindustrialisation which was caused in part by perennial water shortages.
Since time immemorial, stakeholders in the city have cried and lobbied for a long- lasting solution to the water woes.
The calls for a solution to the city’s perennial water problems date back to as far as 1912 when the idea of the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP) was mooted, however 100 years on the project has remained just a mere dream.
Water Resources, Management and Development Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo recently unveiled a new Advisory Council for the project and further announced that the project would be completed in the next three years.
Minister Nkomo himself has not gone unscathed over the water problems in the city as he has previously been attacked for failing the people of Matabeleland by dragging his feet and causing confusion in the implementation of water projects in the province.
When the minister took over the reins his first step was to change the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project to the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, a move that was met with harsh criticism.
The project is viewed as the permanent solution to the city’s water problems.
At one point Minister Nkomo even proposed that BCC should consider recycling water from Khami Dam for domestic use, a suggestion that was vigorously thrown out by leaders from the region.
Another project that has seen stakeholders in the city largely crying foul is the Mtshabezi-Umzingwane pipeline link project.
This project is considered as the short-term solution to Bulawayo’s water problems.
The pipe will bring water from Mtshabezi Dam to Bulawayo through the Umzingwane and Insiza Dams.
Mtshabezi Dam was completed in 1994.
It has a capacity of about 52,2 million cubic metres, a concrete arch wall that is 50,5 metres high and 258 metres long.
Once harnessed, it will be the city’s sixth supply dam and the third-largest after Insiza and Inyankuni.
However, this project has had its own controversy as it has continaully failed to meet its deadline in terms of completion. At one point the minister said the project would have been completed by March 2011 but this deadline was since deferred to October 2011 with the incessant rains being blamed for the delay.
It was also announced that the project would be completed by June this year before it was pushed to July. now since it has seemingly missed its deadline, the minister is non-commitmental on when the project will be completed but claim that the project is 99 percent complete.
Therefore, with all these pending solutions, on one end, and the current water-shedding schedule on the other, stakeholders in the city continue posing the main question whether the water problems in the city will eventually become a thing of the past with an eventual solution having been developed and implemented.
Sunday News interviewed various stakeholders in the city with one question at the fore; whether the city’s water problems will ever end or the cry for water will continue for many generations.
In a statement, BCC senior public relations officer, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu, said while they recognised that water could be considered as a fundamental aspect of human rights it had to be appreciated that the city was in a crisis time thus the move to implement crisis management mechanisms.
“The water supply situation is critical, as at the end of July 2012 the five city’s water supply dams had a combined capacity of 156,4 million cubic metres of water against a potential capacity of 263 million cubic metres representing a 43,1 percent of total capacity.
“Lower Ncema was decommissioned in March 2012 and Umzingwane Dam is likely to be decommissioned by the end of July 2012,’’ said Mrs Mpofu.
She said it had to be noted that the local authority was working tirelessly together with different stakeholders, to address the water supply challenges in the city.
Bulawayo United Residents’ Association (BURA) chairperson, Mr Winos Dube, said it was essential that the city’s leadership realise that the water problem in the city was real and there was a need for a permanent solution to be developed that will give residents in the city reliable water supplies.
“It is common knowledge to everyone that around about July every year the city has to have either water-shedding or rationing therefore this crisis is for real and there is a need for us to develop lasting solutions to this crisis as a matter of urgency.
“I fully believe that if the right attitude is adopted this problem will be a thing of the past. we need seriousness and prioritisation in terms of effectively coming up with a solution, as residents we are now sick and tired of various excuses being given to us on why the projects are not completed,’’ said Mr Dube.
He said it was unfair for residents of the city to continually endure water-shedding while the Government and the local authority are sitting on possible solutions.
“It is really mind-boggling that we know that there is a solution to this problem but we are failing to at least push for the completion of one project, even if they argue that the Mtshabezi project and NMZWP are expensive, there is also the Nyamandlovu Aquifer which is much cheaper,’’ said Mr Dube.
Bulawayo Mayor, Councillor Thaba Moyo said while they understood the plight of residents with the current water regime there was, however, a need for people to take a wholesome approach to the problems in the city.
“What is important is for people to note that we already have a crisis at hand and therefore, a need to devise strategies to conserve our water thus the introduction of the water-shedding scheme.
“As City Fathers we are playing our part in terms of lobbying the Government to at least complete the Mtshabezi project and also the duplication of the Insiza pipe. we believe if these projects are completed we will then avert the problem until we get a lasting solution in terms of the NMZWP,’’ said Clr Moyo.
He said residents should co-operate with the local authority by using water sparingly, which would allow the available supplies to last longer.
Minister Sipepa Nkomo on the other hand urged residents to be patient with his ministry as it is working round the clock to ensure the city and the region get a solution to the critical water situation.
“We are fully appreciative of the problems in the city and people must not think we are just taking a backseat and forgetting about Bulawayo, right now I can safely say the Mtshabezi-Umzingwane pipeline link project will be completed soon as all the major works have been done. We are simply waiting for the pumps to arrive from South Africa.
“However, I must emphasise that people must not create a crisis before there is a crisis. some sections of the media and some opinion leaders are blowing this issue out of proportion, which I feel is unfair,’’ said the minister.
While residents have to endure a tight water-shedding schedule, the onus is on the local authority and the Government to develop lasting solutions to the city’s water problems that will see all the water-shedding and rationing becoming a thing of the past.