Water crisis looms in Matabeleland


City of Bulawayo

THE devastating dry spell which has gripped the country in the wake of the El Nino weather phenomenon is fast raising the possibility of a serious water crisis in the entire drought-prone Matabeleland region.
Local authorities have been watching the prolonged dry spell with horror as supplies of the precious liquid continue to dwindle in supply dams.
The country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, is already on edge as the prolonged dry spell poses a real threat to its water supplies.
Bulawayo city fathers might meet this month to discuss the emotive issue as they seek to conserve water before the situation deteriorates into a major disaster.
The city, with one-million residents, last went through the worst of its water crises back in 2013.
At the time, residents spent as much as four days every week without a single drop of water dripping from their taps.
The worst affected areas were the townships, where water became a precious commodity and was sold off to desperate residents by enterprising citizens.
Bulawayo relies on six supply dams for its water needs namely: Mtshabezi, Umzingwane, Insiza, Inyankuni, Lower Ncema and Upper Ncema.
The current water supplies held by the supply dams are estimated to meet Bulawayo’s water needs up to August next year.
But further triggering panic in the city is that the Upper Ncema Dam was decommissioned at the end of last year.
An age-old suggestion to the water problems crippling the city, of drawing water from the Zambezi River remains a pipe dream because the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, the organisation set up to drive the initiative to draw water from the Zambezi River, has failed to kickoff due to a cocktail of hurdles which include political grandstanding and the lack of funding estimated to be US$1 billion.
Gift Banda, the city’s deputy mayor, said the unfolding dry spell has forced the city fathers to “review” the water situation.
“I cannot concretely comment on what steps the city council will take on the water situation. We are hoping that the rains will come soon, not only for Bulawayo, but for the whole country,” said Banda.
“If the rains come in before, say February and March, then there will be no need to go into water rationing. I won’t pre-empt before the meeting we will hold as city fathers where such a decision will be taken.
“However, we will be reviewing the water situation and we are very concerned because we are in the dry part of the country,” he added.
The border town of Beitbridge, earlier this month had its water supplies reduced by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) from 6 000 cubic metres to 2 000 cubic metres — raising fears of a possible disease outbreak in the town often characterised by high volumes of human traffic.
It is understood that Beitbridge owes US$7 million to ZINWA and had committed itself to paying US$70 000 monthly to clear the arrears.
The dry spell has already been an anathema for the agricultural sector, which had been hopeful of a better farming season, but instead has been on the receiving end of a dry spell, marked by high temperatures of as much as 40 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country.
The dry spell, which is increasingly pointing to a major drought, has sounded the death knell on the country’s hopes for a better 2015/2016 farming season.
Agricultural experts have warned that if the heavens do not significantly open up soon, much of the country’s maize crop would be a complete write-off.
Judiya Ncube, an official from the department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services in Matabeleland South province said early planted crops had already wilted due to the dry spell.
“The early planted crop, which was put to the ground sometime in November last year, after a few isolated showers in some areas, is gone with most of it permanently wilted and there is nothing which will be expected from that,” Ncube said.

Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette