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Hot spell forces firms to work night shifts

by Staff reporter
06 Dec 2023 at 05:03hrs | Views
INDUSTRIAL manufacturing processes are being threatened by the high temperatures being recorded across the country, which affect the cooling systems for some critical machinery used by companies while unstable water supplies in Bulawayo have worsened the situation, captains of industry have said.

According to the Meteorological Services Department, the country continues to record higher temperatures, especially in low-lying areas where maximum temperatures have clocked between 38 and 40 degrees Celsius.

Traditionally high temperatures in areas such as Binga and Hwange, which are considered to be extremely hot, record temperatures of up to 36 degrees Celsius, but such temperatures are being recorded in Bulawayo, which hardly exceeded 34 degrees Celsius.

Environmental experts have linked the soaring temperatures to climate change, which is linked to harmful global industrial emissions that result in the greenhouse effect.

As a result of the prevailing high temperatures, captains of industry are consolidating data on the impact of heat across sectors.

Due to El Nino weather conditions, the country has also suffered a prolonged dry spell, which has frustrated the summer cropping season.

Humans are experiencing the adverse effects of high temperatures with medical experts calling on the public to stay hydrated to avoid illnesses including heat stroke.

Livestock farmers in Matebeleland region have started losing their animals, prompting the Government and its partners to roll out measures to save the herd and support producers.

The impact of climate change induced weather changes is said to be cutting across sectors with the industry also affected.

"Some industry and factory equipment was not designed to operate at these ultra-high temperatures," United Refineries Limited chief executive, Mr Busisa Moyo, signalled in a post on X, saying the impact of climate change has not been seriously discussed at an industrial level.

"Recalibration, redesign and re-engineering costs of industrial processes have not been researched and tabled much. Opportunities for green refrigeration and cooling."

His sentiments were buttressed by Association for Business Zimbabwe (ABUZ) chief executive, Mr Victor Nyoni, who said the high temperatures were driving up the cost of production.

"I was talking to one manufacturer this morning and he was saying the high temperatures were affecting their operating cooling systems that run with the machine.

"He says they have had to place fans in the production room because the temperatures are too high. The machines are heating to the point of malfunctioning," said Mr Nyoni.

"So, from a technical point of view, the guys who are doing engineering will tell you that to operate efficiently the machinery has to operate at certain levels of temperatures, and to maintain those temperatures comes at a cost."

Mr Nyoni said in some instances, industrialists have to stop production to cool down the machines.

He said some companies are also even considering night operations in a bid to evade the high temperatures.

"One guy was even suggesting that they must now run at night when temperatures are lower than during the day to deal with the heat.

"But it comes with some inconvenience for workers and you have to consider things like overtime and cost that companies have to suffer," said Mr Nyoni.

He said some companies in Bulawayo had drilled boreholes to mitigate the effects of the city's water crisis but the water table is now lower, constraining their operations.

Mr Nyoni said except for investing in cooling systems, there is little that the industry can do to address the prevailing climate-induced problems.

"Another interesting thing is that there are companies that have drilled boreholes in their premises because of the water problem. Obviously, the dry spell that we are experiencing, the water table is going down and some boreholes are beginning to show strain and that is the message as reported by our members," he said. "Remember the issue of heat is an act from God, so there is very little that can be done than just investing in cooling systems and unfortunately businesses will incur this cost," said Mr Nyoni.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries CZI) Matebeleland Chapter vice president Mr Joseph Gunda said they are in the process of gathering data on the impact of the heat effects on their productivity.

"A lot of factories use water so if we run out of water then we will have a problem. We can't complete our manufacturing without water. Some of our members had drilled boreholes and the water table is getting lower and lower," said Mr Gunda.

"Whether for cooling purposes, utilisation purposes, most of our processes require water, without water we are nothing. We had hoped that a few showers would come but it remains drier, particularly for Matebeleland we are consolidating further information. So, we are in a very tight situation in terms of water."

He said the completion of Lake Gwayi Shangani project needs to be expedited so that it addresses the water issues for Bulawayo's industries.

Presenting the 2024 national Budget, Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, said Lake Gwayi Shangani's completion was being prioritised.

Source - The Herald