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Council insists on sewage contaminated Khami water

by Staff reporter
19 Jul 2020 at 09:25hrs | Views
As debate on the use of Khami Dam water to ease water shortages in Bulawayo continues, the local authority has insisted there is no need for panic as the water posed no health riskto residents contrary to unfounded claims by politicians.

Any mention of use of Khami Dam water invokes angry outbursts and emotions from city residents following previous claims from politicians that the dam contained dead bodies of Gukurahundi victims.

Khami Dam was the first supply dam to be built for the city in 1927 and was decommissioned in 1988.

Bulawayo city fathers insist the city's water woes now seen in a six-day water-shedding regime can be eased by tapping into Khami Dam, which is estimated to provide 12 megalitres of water per day.

According to council spokesperson Nesisa Mpofu, Khami Dam was decommissioned from supplying water to the city because of the imminent commissioning of the sewage treatment plant upstream (Southern Areas Sewer Treatment Plant) and low water levels and not because of water contamination.

"There were no reports of water contamination that we are aware of. Following the decommissioning, the dam has not been used as a source of potable water," Mpofu told Sunday Southern Eye in an emailed response.

Bulawayo is in the midst of a water shortage-related health crisis that has claimed 13 lives, and infected over 2 000 others.

Luveve and surrounding suburbs are the epicentre of the killer water-borne disease outbreak that is blamed on water contamination and shortages of water.

As a means to alleviate the situation, council has exempted the suburb from any water shedding while also suggesting plans to use Khami Dam water, inviting angry outbursts from residents and other stakeholders.

The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) was the first to suggest use of Khami Dam water in 2007 at the height of grinding water shortages in the city.

However, the idea was shot down by prominent Bulawayo politicians such as Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa and former Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.

Ndlovu went further to suggest a shrine should be erected at the site as a monument for freedom fighters that were allegedly killed and thrown into the dam by the Ian Smith regime.

Dabengwa argued those who wanted to recycle the water should leave Bulawayo people alone, but only proceed to do so for their own consumption and their families.

Mpofu argued those against Khami Dam water citing contamination among other reasons were ill informed and off side.

"Our initial assessment has indicated that there will be no risk to the health of the residents as the technology to be used will eliminate all bacteria or other deleterious agents in the water, making it safe for either industrial use or for drinking," Mpofu said.

"Furthermore, as part of the Bulawayo Water Supply and Sewerage Services Improvement Project, the SAST treatment works and the outfall sewers in the SAST catchment are currently being refurbished and upgraded so as to improve the quality of the effluent flowing into Khami Dam."

Council estimates that it requires about US$26 million for purifying Khami Dam water for consumption.

"The city needs to eliminate algae in the dam, and there is technology to cater for that and that technology is in use in so many other countries.

"Secondly, is the use of modular technology (Plug-&-Play)," Mpofu noted as she mentioned specifications for purifying Khami Dam water.

"The system comes complete and ready for use.

The modular containerised systems can be expandable, for example, starting off with a five-mega litre plant and adding more 5ML/day modular plants depending with demand and resources available at the time."

In 2011, then Water Resources minister Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo also suggested the use of Khami Dam water, but was rebuked by councillors in the city from his own opposition MDC-T party who said he should drink the water himself.

However, as debate rages on the Khami Dam water, Mpofu admitted that council needs to do more to educate city residents to allay their fears.

"This is work in progress as engagements are still ongoing using the current social platforms (owing to Covid-19)," she said.

"The city has been invited by various social media groupings to share in detail the project and in all cases the project is generally acceptable."

According to a 2008 study by Muchaparara Musemwa titled Early Struggles over Water: from Private to Public Water Utility in the City of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 1894-1924, the issue of water in the country's second city has been politicised, and this dates back to the colonial era.

The MDC Alliance-led council has pleaded with the central government to declare the city a water crisis area to enable it to mobilise much-needed resources to undertake water shortage alleviation projects, but has received a cold shoulder.

"The contemporary social and political struggles between the city of Bulawayo and the Zimbabwean state over the control of water are reminiscent of earlier contestations during the first three decades after Bulawayo's establishment in 1894," Musemwa argues in his study.

"During that period, the BCC was locked in conflict with the Bulawayo Waterworks Company, a private concern, which won rights from the British South Africa Company to supply water to the fledgling colonial city in 1895.

"Supported by the city's white ratepayers, the Bulawayo municipality was successful in taking over the city's water supply in 1924. "

As the city stands, it has so far decommissioned three of its six supply dams located in Matabeleland South due to low water levels.

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