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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Zimbabwe Briefing - Issue 117
in Zimbabwe Coalition (SA Regional Office)
September 25, 2013
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water shortages – What caused Zimbabwe’s empty bucket?
“Water gushed over parched land fractures are slowly filled
left by drought,” -“Water” by Wilma Neels
basket case or empty water bucket
In the years
following Zimbabwe’s contentious land reform program, spearheaded
more through disorderly and violent invasions than actual planning,
the country began experiencing challenges relating to acute food
shortages and importing maize from the most unlikely neighbours
in Southern Africa. Civil Rights Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from
the neighbouring South Africa Arch-bishop Desmond Tutu then made
a witty remark regarding the food insecurity in Zimbabwe when he
stated that the Robert Mugabe-led country had become “the
basket case” instead of the breadbasket of Southern Africa
it had once been.
emanating from various parts of the country, indicate that the country
is facing a serious shortage of water and slowly turning into an
“empty bucket” to paraphrase the sentiments of Tutu.
In simple terms, Zimbabwe is staring at an empty bucket without
sufficient water – the precious liquid that is arguably the
lifeblood of modern day civilization.
as a constitutional right and a necessity
The new Constitution
of Zimbabwe states in Chapter 4, Section 77 that: “Every person
has the right to- safe, clean and portable water…” Water
in Zimbabwe is a constitutional right. On September 24, 2010, the
UN Human Rights Council adopted a binding resolution recognizing
that the human right to water and sanitation are a part of the right
to an adequate standard of living. The resolution is enforceable
when it is part of the Constitution like in Zimbabwe.
We need water
to bath, we need water to drink (well, 70% of our bodies is made
up of that clear liquid), we need water to push our sewer systems
to their intended destinations; we need water to wash our clothes,
we need water in the industries and cars as a coolant, and so forth
and so on. The point is that we cannot do without water. It neither
rains nor pours in Zimbabwe
should admit that perhaps Zimbabwe has never been the water bucket
of the region. Water neither frequently rains from our skies especially
in dry parts of the country, nor pours from the taps in Zimbabwe.
This is not to say that the current water woes faced by almost all
of Zimbabwe’s urban councils and their residents are normal,
and nothing could have been done about it because the truth is that
the government has lacked the will to act on this subject of water
pro-vision for the greater part of our post-colonial decades.
to urban migration
There has been
a recognizable failure by the successive Zanu-PF-led governments
to invest in water, this vital component of urban life and civilization
as the population and the demand for water steadily rose, putting
a strain on the water systems and outpacing their capacities. Part
of the challenges just like in terms of housing and sewer reticulation
has been caused by the reality of surges in urban populations due
to rural-urban migration, stemming from the lack of development
in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. This has been a result of unequal
development and neglect of the rural populace.
woes in rural areas
the trend of water shortages equally plagues rural communities as
they usually do not have access to clean water, if at all. In some
southern parts of the country, stretching to the west, such as the
Masvingo and Bulawayo provinces cases of perpetual shortages of
water underscore the gravity and widespread nature of the water
crisis in Zimbabwe. As the crisis goes unabated, people in areas
like Chivi resort to desperate measures and drink water from the
rivers where they burrow unsafe wells in the dry rivers’ sands
to quench their thirst. Fortuitously, the United Nations International
Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) has lately been drilling
boreholes to remedy the situation.
Again, it is
UNICEF which intervened with the drilling of boreholes in the city
centres after the Cholera outbreak of 2008. But the underground
boreholes in some areas have been blamed for the emergence of diseases
such as typhoid, because of the unsafe underground urban water sources,
which could be a sign that there is no substitute for piped water
in the urban areas.
of government investment
out clearly is the Zimbabwean government’s lack of adequate
initiatives since independence to deal with the water situation
across the country, some-times owing to its hostile stances to development
partners given that some of these organisations were banned from
carrying out humanitarian work in 2008. Most of the current major
manmade water bodies such as the largest inland Lake Kyle, the Kariba
Dam, Lake Chivero and others were all built by the then, pre-1980
Rhodesian government after which the new government which took over
went to sleep on major water projects even those that had already
been earmarked before independence. One such project the Tokwe-Mukosi
dam is only beginning to take shape 33 years after independence.
This is without mentioning the lack of refurbishment - dealing with
siltation and water weeds - on the old ones.
Some of the
projects like the Zambezi water project which has always been on
the government agenda remain paper tigers without any progress on
the ground. In light of the Zambezi Water project, it is clear that
had it been started and completed there would be no water woes in
Zimbabwe’s industrial capital and second major city Bulawayo,
the city would not be having a ridiculous inadequate water shedding
problems and food insecurity
issue of water shortages, especially in rural areas, cannot be mentioned
without pinpointing its impact on rural agriculture in Zimbabwe’s
dry regions, despite their capacity for irrigation farming should
the necessary resources be availed. The government’s disinvestment
in water infrastructure over the years has contributed to Zimbabwe’s
empty water bucket and partly its empty breadbasket, plus desperate
food situation in dry districts.
What is worrying
is that the lack of investment on the water front is also replicated
on other infrastructural fronts such as the dilapidated road and
rail networks, and sewer systems and housing backlogs which combine
to tell the whole story of infrastructural backwardness and a government
that fell asleep on the job.
see how it goes
dry conditions across the country the issue of water has become
a ticking time bomb which must be addressed urgently by the Zanu-PF
government. Without being too an alarmist, there could be another
water disease outbreak this summer as things stand if urgent steps
are not taken to remedy the water situation.
During the opening
of the 8th Parliament of Zimbabwe on September 17, President Robert
Mugabe mentioned this
issue and the plans to deal with the problem, including a USD144
million from China to deal with water problems in the capital city
The water projects
include three more dams for Harare in seven years. We wait to see
whether there will be genuine progress on the matter and whether
Zimbabwe’s increasingly empty bucket of water will be filled,
with clean water, after some three decades of neglect.
Visit the Crisis
in Zimbabwe fact
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