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Bulawayo water crisis worsens

by Staff reporter
27 Feb 2024 at 03:06hrs | Views
BULAWAYO is sitting on a health time bomb as the city's water woes continue to mount with most suburbs going for weeks without running tap water, forcing residents to resort to unhygienic water sources.

The city is on a 120-hour shedding schedule as Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is struggling to pump enough raw water into its reservoirs due to depleted water levels in the city's supply dams including a fault at the Ncema Pump Station.

Some residents have resorted to collecting water from unhygienic shallow wells in swampy areas, while some are forced to sleep in long queues at communal boreholes drilled in strategic points.

In some instances, residents resort to the bush toilet, creating a health hazard.

A news crew yesterday visited selected suburbs in the western areas and observed long winding queues for water at boreholes, bowser spots, and unconventional wells.

In Entumbane suburb, some residents fetched water from unhygienic water sources dotted in swampy areas. Some women were spotted washing clothes using water from wells that they had dug around the smelly swamps.

A resident, Mrs Annah Mhlanga (84) said due to the prevailing water crisis they were forced to utilise the shallow wells in nearby bushy areas despite the danger of being mugged or raped.

"This place is in a secluded place such that if anything were to happen to me no one would come to my rescue. So, residents have resorted to coming here in groups," she said.

"The water that you see here is not clean and we use it for bathing and toilet use. However, when it gets tough, we even drink it."

Mrs Mhlanga said the unconventional well used to be a borehole before people stole the pumping equipment.

 "I come here every day to do my laundry because there is no water coming out of taps. Boreholes have long queues including at areas where council water bowsers supply water," she said.

"If I am to queue there it means I would spend the whole day doing nothing yet I am taking care of a sick child."

Chronicle also observed residents scrambling for water from a bowser at Nhlalo Shopping Centre in Entumbane.

Mrs Shella Msimanga said their ward councillor had organised a bowser as part of efforts to address water challenges in the suburb.

"We approached our councillor over this water problem and he chipped in. Every day, each household is supposed to collect five buckets. We hope everyone in this section will be covered," she said.

Mr Thulani Moyo of Iminyela suburb, who is living with disability, said they are sitting on a ticking time bomb as they rely on communal toilets.

"Honestly, if I find the toilet dirty it means I will flush it so that I can use it and thereafter l will also leave it dirty because I cannot waste the little water I have," he said.

Bulawayo mayor Clr David Coltart said the water shedding programme is directly linked to the local authority's inability to pump sufficient water into the criterion, coupled with power challenges.

He said four of the city's major dams comprising Umzingwane, Inyankuni, Upper and Lower Ncema, are at 15 percent capacity.

"The other two dams Mtshabezi and Insiza have better water levels, but the ability to pump water from them is difficult as they are gravity-fed. In the case of Mtshabezi Dam, the water flows into Umzingwane and then evaporates due to the excessive heat," said Clr Coltart.

 "You will find that because of the low capacity we are getting from Nyamandlovu we are not able to get sufficient water to Magwegwe Reservoir, which is our third reservoir. With these high temperatures we are also experiencing rapid evaporation and our dams are virtually dry. If this persists, we may have to decommission these dams," said Clr Coltart.

He said BCC has since written to the Government requesting for intervention.

"We have requested the Government to chip in and declare this water problem a state of emergency so that we can access emergency international funding," said Clr Coltart.

He said there are proposals to increase the capacity of water from Insiza and Mtshabezi, which have been forwarded to the Government for consideration.

The mayor said Bulawayo needs at least US$14 million to immediately alleviate the city's perennial water challenges.

He said the funds are meant to facilitate the rehabilitation of dams, constructing diversionary pipelines from alternative water sources, and beefing up security for existing infrastructure.

Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube said the city's water problem is a perennial issue hence the Government has undertaken to expedite the construction of the Lake Gwayi-Shangani Project, with a pipeline from Gwayi to Bulawayo already being constructed as the long-term solution.

"The temperatures are high and we are losing the little water we have. There were no significant inflows from the rainfall. Another challenge we face as a city is the illegal mining activity that is being done close to our supply dams," she said.

"Those shafts drain our water and for the dams to recover, we need heavy rains to fill those shafts and trenches."

Source - The Chronicle
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