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from the Wetlands Survival Forum - Harare water crisis public meeting
November 04, 2013
Survival Forum convened a public
dialogue on the Harare water crisis on Tuesday 29 October at
the Highlands Presbyterian Church.
More than 150
people attended, and heard remarks from the invited speakers as
well as well as comments and questions from the floor.
city government were Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni, Harare Ward
9 Councillor Stewart Mutizwa, Ward 8 Councillor Chris Mbanga and
Ward 18 Councillor Rusty Markham, who also moderated the discussion.
meeting, Councillor Rusty Markham noted that the Harare water area
under discussion services 4.2 million people - one third of Zimbabwe’s
In his remarks,
Mayor Manyenyeni noted the following:
- Harare is
sitting on a planning deficit of more than 20 years. The city
has lost time and credibility, and is facing a crisis in its ability
to supply water.
to Harare’s water crisis will take 5 or more years to develop,
fund and implement. So the problems are greater than any councillor’s
current term in office.
- The City
of Harare is not an attractive loan or investment candidate, particularly
when $330 million worth of debt gets written off. The municipality
is not very bankable.
- The city’s
water table is dropping steadily, and encouraging people to sink
boreholes is not a viable solution.
wetlands have been encroached upon with impunity. This contributes
to the problem.
then briefly introduced the audience to the Wetlands Survival Forum,
which was established in July this year with the objective of brining
different voices together to improve water delivery.
asked for a show of hands, and 90% of the audience said they had
not had a regular (2 or more days per week) supply of water in the
past 6 months.
from Harare Water distribution presented the problems facing the
city in terms of piped water. Some of these included:
- City has
2 water treatment facilities. One was built in 1953 and was last
upgraded in 1994. The other, Morton Jaffray, was last upgraded
- The city’s
overall infrastructure has also been poorly maintained, so there
are many leaking pipes.
- The pollution
levels in raw water are high, which chokes the filtering system
and further lowers supply.
- The system
needs 10% pipe replacement each year just to maintain supply.
This has not been happening for several years.
- The proposed
3 year project with Chinese support should boost water production
for Morton Jaffray
in the water supply should begin in May 2014, and residents should
be receiving four days of water each week by the end of 2014.
Tim Broderick shared a presentation
on ground water – what it is, why it’s there and
how it functions. Among his points were:
geology is complex. This makes addressing Harare’s water
act as sumps and regulators for ground water
- Annual rainfall
recharges only 2-4% of Harare water. The rest goes to run off
- There are
over 10,000 boreholes in Harare’s northern suburbs.
- Water is
coming out of Harare’s water table at a much greater rate
than it is getting recharged. Harare is effectively mining water
– The annual abstraction is much greater than the replacement
of bulk water is also a problem. A Statutory Instrument was gazetted
to address this.
Harare’s water problems needs discipline from everyone,
including individual consumers.
- At a minimum,
individuals should conserve water through their individual behaviour,
such as not watering their lawns / gardens.
are an important central feature for Harare’s water supply.
Borrowdale vlei feeds the Gwebi river. Highlands’wetlands
feeds the Mukuvisi River. This then feeds Lake Chivero, which
stores water for Harare supply.
Chris Magadza took the floor to speak about underground lakes.
to Magadza’s recent observations, there has been a massive
loss of storage from Lake Chivero due to sediment. Sediment is
filling in the lake, decreasing its depth, and meaning that it
can store less water.
is accumulating because of erosion from urban cultivation and
dirt from the roads running into the gutters and storm drains.
to the Environmental
Management Act, the Ministry can step in to stop development
in order to protect wetlands.
- There is
no exception in the law – Wetlands are protected by legislation.
- Loss of
storage at Lake Chivero is entirely due to mismanagement of wetlands.
- The rubbish
running off the streets, into the storm drains, into the Mukuvisi
River and on to Lake Chivero is enough to keep the lake (and therefore
Harare’s water supply) polluted.
- Damage the
wetlands and you risk damaging homes and property - As is being
witnessed by residents on Kennilworth Road (Newlands, where the
ZiFM studio is).
presentations, remarks were invited from the floor. These included:
- Given the
importance of wetlands for Harare’s water supply, how could
developments like the Sports Stadium and Borrowdale Mall get the
to require borehole owners to capture rainwater to recharge the
to ban watering gardens and verges.
- Local authorities
were overruled by national government, which pushed through Borrowdale
and National Stadium developments, said Councillor Mutizwa.
- Laws to
protect Harare’s wetlands and water supply need to be enforced,
for example through collective action with the Wetlands Survival
Forum, said Councillor Rusty Markham.
is the biggest problem facing Harare water, said one audience
audience member cited the issue of properties being subdivided
into smaller places for more users than were originally planned
At the invitation
of the Mayor, Mike van Blerk from HFA shared some information about
the Borrowdale mall development. His remarks included:
- The problem
with Harare’s water is a lack of planning and lack of finance.
constructive alternatives such as top standing water storage in
lieu of wetlands at Borrowdale development site.
- What about
indigenous trees like musasas instead of water thirsty gum trees?
The development will plant 800 water conserving trees. Contrast
this with the gum trees planted by Forestry Commission at the
top of the Newlands wetlands.
- We pledge
to protect Harare’s water.
Tim Broderick noted that replacing wetlands with artificial drainage
or gullies undermines the effectiveness of these wetlands (their
sump and purification functions).
from the audience included:
- Why has
there been no Harare water supplied to the Emerald Hill School
for the Deaf for 9 years, but there is water being piped right
past the school to the University of Zimbabwe?
- How much
will the Chinese loan cost us and what are the terms? Answer from
Rusty Markham: Loan is for $144 million. There are no repayments
due for the first 5 years, and the repayment terms after that
- Flush toilets
waste a lot of water. Place a few bricks (wrapped in plastic,
or 500mL plastic water bottles) in the cistern to reduce water
- Learn from
places like Australia to limit water usage and conserve water.
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