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climate change policies need an urban focus
January 22, 2011
In spite of the political
and financial turmoil that Zimbabwe faces, the country seems to
be on the right track in adopting strategies to address the effects
of climate change. But these strategies tend to have a strong rural
bias, overlooking the fact that almost half of the country now lives
in urban areas, according to a joint review of the country's climate
change response by a think tank and leading NGO.
Zimbabwe, like many other
African countries, has begun to develop a national framework to
respond to climate change, including efforts to identify authorities
to process donor funds for mitigating and adapting to climate change,
said one of the authors of the review, Shepard Zvigadza of ZERO
Regional Environment Organization.
However, as in most other
African countries, policymakers and researchers "ignore longstanding
urbanization trends and continue to overstate the proportion of
Zimbabwe's population living in rural areas."
The ruling ZANU-PF party,
which has dominated politics in Zimbabwe for decades, has been accused
of appeasing their voters, who are largely rural, by developing
policies that cater to them while disregarding urban residents.
Taking into account UN
statistics, the authors suggested that almost 38 percent of Zimbabwe's
population lives in urban areas, but the number could be as high
as 50 percent if national assessments are considered.
change adds to woes
Zimbabwe's urban transition
is a lot more advanced than most countries in Southern Africa, and
urban problems such as water scarcity - prompted by sparse rains
and a dropping water table - are not getting the attention they
deserve, Zvigadza told IRIN in an email.
that the water table for boreholes used to be around 30m in the
1990s, but now water can be found around 60m or more below ground.
This is true for cities like Bulawayo, whose water sources are various
rivers. Such a situation has created long-term water and sanitation
challenges, leading to health problems in cities like Chitungwiza
and Kadoma," he added.
water shortages in Chitungwiza and Kadoma in 2012, outbreaks
of typhoid and cholera were recorded. In 2008, the country experienced
one of the worst cholera outbreaks recorded anywhere in recent times;
the outbreak killed at least 4,000 people and infected 100,000 others.
The country's socioeconomic
problems, combined with the effects of climate change, are likely
to aggravate the situation in the coming years.
Zvigadza explained that,
"obviously, there are some other socioeconomic factors like
poor waste management and service delivery that are most likely
to be at play, but climate change is going to worsen this situation.
For example, in [the] water and sanitation situation, nearby flowing
sewer water is more likely to contaminate fresh piped water if there
is a broken pipe. Water reticulation infrastructure has now aged
and cannot cope with the rising population. This means they can
break at any time where there is too much water in the system as
a result of flooding."
Evidence from climate
change impact studies shows that Zimbabwe's capital, Harare,
is going to experience heavy, frequent and prolonged rainfall leading
to flash floods, said Zvigadza.
A broken health infrastructure
that cannot cope with the rising urban population is yet another
driver of a potential crisis. "The health facilities may fail
to cope with this demand, and climate change as an added stressor
is most likely to increase this urban population's vulnerability,"
to climate change
The government should
invest in the health, water and energy sectors to develop infrastructure
that can adapt to climate variability, said Zvigadza.
policies should be related to adaptation, such as promoting water
harvesting techniques at the household level. Education on climate
change should be initiated at primary schools to create awareness
at an early age and help people prepare.
Zvigadza noted that the
country "is obviously struggling financially", but there
are "donors who are interested" in supporting the country,
which "has advanced in its readiness to receive and use climate
A number of NGOs and
research organizations have begun to emphasize adaptation to climate
change in their development projects, particularly in drought-prone
rural areas, noted the review. A community-based adaptation project
was piloted by the UN Development Programme in Zimbabwe, for example.
A growing number of NGOs has also becoming involved in Zimbabwe's
Climate Change Working Group, a leading civil society network.
While civil society has
increasingly come under attack in the country for political reasons,
Zvigadza said, "it has become obvious that climate change has
not been politicized, thus civil society has been working and continues
to work with communities without intimidation... Overall, what is
only required is the sense of national belonging that is speaking
with one non-partisan voice, and this has begun to happen."
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