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Whither Zim on water situation?

Water scarcity has to be the biggest survival challenge Zimbabweans are facing at the moment.

Environment with Chipo Masara

One shudders to think what would happen if the problem was left to deteriorate even further.

Water is the most important resource on earth, a fact that many in Zimbabwe should be well aware of by now.

But maybe the realisation sunk in a little too late, as apparent efforts to improve the management of water resources at the top level have only just begun to gain some sort of momentum, only after it has become glaringly clear that there is a big problem.

So much time is spent by the ordinary Zimbabwean gathering any type of water available for daily use, time that might have been better used on more productive endeavours, had the water situation not been so dire.

Women and children mostly bear the brunt of the country’s collapsed water management system, as gathering water for domestic use is considered their responsibility.

Water scarcity is especially a challenge for urban dwellers, the bulk of whom used to depend on the once dependable but now rarely available tap water. Because many people in Zimbabwe’s urban areas cannot remember when last they had running taps, many have had to turn to wells, most of which are unprotected, for their daily water supply.

For those “lucky” enough to have been getting a regular supply of the municipal water, a recent laboratory report supplied by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe that revealed that Harare’s tap water contained pathogens, should be a cause for concern.

Although the test results were specifically for Harare’s municipal water, chances are that if tested, tap water being supplied in other urban areas in the country will not fare any better.

Typhoid and cholera, diseases that were done away with a long time ago in most parts of the world, are a constant threat to the Zimbabwean community. In fact, there is currently an outbreak of dysentery cases, amid fears that it might precipitate the resurgency of typhoid.

The diarrhoea cases have been blamed by the Health ministry on contaminated water. But many people continue to find themselves with no choice but to keep turning to the contaminated water sources, as the next option would be not getting any water at all.

But just how did the situation deteriorate to such dangerous levels?
Although it would seem the problem stems more from the responsible authorities’ inability to properly plan, develop, distribute and manage the optimum use of the precious water resource, the government blames it on the lack of funds, in turn blamed on the West-imposed sanctions!

But playing the blame game will certainly not make the problems go away.

Rivers and dams, the main sources of water, have been polluted to unprecedented levels. Waste from industrial processes, litter and raw sewage, are some of the matter that fills up the water sources today.

As if all that was not enough, ecologically-sensitive areas like wetlands that exist to help ensure a future supply of water are under imminent threat in the country. Most have been destroyed and the few that are left are in grave danger. According to the convention on wetlands of international importance — the Rasmar Convention — to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, wetlands include swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, oases, estuaries, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans, among others.

They act as storage for rainwater and as a result, water supply to people depends on the conservation of the wetlands. But they are rapidly being destroyed and thus, the country’s future water supply is in what seems to be even bigger trouble.

Successful management of any resource requires knowledge of that resource.

The extent of the water problem in the country requires that people that actually know what they are doing tackle it. It is time the revamping of the water resource management structures was prioritised.

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