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Coltart hails Bulawayo water crisis 'consensus' meeting

by Staff reporter
28 Feb 2024 at 13:45hrs | Views
Bulawayo mayor David Coltart said there was now a "broad consensus" to solve the city's perennial water problems after a meeting with water minister Anxious Masuka on Wednesday.

Coltart has been pushing the government to declare Bulawayo a water disaster area, a step which would free the city to approach donors to fund its short-term plans to keep the taps running.

"There is a broad consensus now regarding the short, medium and long term solutions to the crisis. We now need to jointly mobilise the resources needed to address the problem," Coltart said after the meeting in Bulawayo, also attended by provincial minister Judith Ncube.

"Regarding our expressed wish that Bulawayo be declared a water shortage area, the minister has directed the technical committee to urgently report on current water holdings at Insiza, Inyankuni and Mtshabezi dams and the current ability to deliver that water to the city which will determine any decision regarding the declaration prayed for."

Coltart maintains that the city's water supply dams, although they got little inflows during this rainy season, hold enough water to quench the city's thirst. Bulawayo residents currently get council water for two days in a week.

The mayor's plan is to repair boreholes at the Nyamandlovu Aquifer, whose water is pumped to Magwegwe reservoir and to the rest of the high-density suburbs. He also wants a 2.5km pipeline from Mtshabezi Dam, which is 70 percent full, to Umzingwane pump station which would significantly increase the flow of water to the city of 650,000 people.

Coltart says the council, which is too broke to upgrade its water infrastructure, needs about US$14 million for the short-term projects.

A medium to long term solution to make the city water secure is the construction of the Glass Block Dam which was surveyed in 1988 on Umzingwane River near Glass Block 2 Primary School in Insiza, according to Coltart. This development will be coupled with upgrading the pipeline from Ncema Dam, the refurbishment and expansion of the dam and a further expansion of the Thuli reservoir from which most of the city's eastern suburbs draw water. Council engineers say this will cost a further US$150 million.

The government, meanwhile, has missed several deadlines to complete the Gwayi Shangani Dam in Matabeleland North. Ministers hail the project as a game changer for Bulawayo, but city councillors fear it could be years before the local authority can draw water from the giant dam.

On Monday, Coltart and Ncube met with the European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe Jobst von Kirchmann about the water crisis.

Coltart said: "One thing that emerged in the meeting was that the EU ambassador said they have emergency funds available for water, but it is not allowed to disburse those funds until the government declares the city as a water shortage area and this is an illustration of how it is critically important that the declaration by government be made.

"I have no doubt that Minister Ncube and myself working together we can communicate that the government as a matter of urgency makes that declaration."

Writing on X, Kirchmann said: "In my meeting with the mayor of Bulawayo, I was deeply concerned to learn about the severe water shortage gripping Bulawayo. The outlook for the City of Kings seems to be alarming."

Even as he warns about the dire situation, Coltart has urged residents not to panic.

"We are clear that there is a water crisis but it is also important that we don't depress people or make them panic. There is a strategy to take us through this winter and the next summer, it very important that the general public understands," he said.

Source - zimlive