Harare’s Water: A Ticking Time Bomb

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Harare City Council’s Waste Water Manager, Engineer Simon Muserere, on Monday revealed that contaminated water is being released into Lake Chivero, the city’s biggest source of drinking water, putting the health of more than half a million people at risk.

Likening Harare’s situation to an overstretched catapult, Muserere said a total of US$18 million is required to avert a disaster. He said that a total of 90 out of 144 mega litres were being treated on a daily basis, with 54 mega litres going untreated.

Muserere said that breakdowns at the city’s largest eight-hectare sewerage, Firle Sewerage Treatment Works, and constant power cuts combined with high amounts of grit, phosphates, ammonia and nitrogen were contributing to failure by the city to treat water. He said local industry was also culpable due to their failure to reduce pollution activities.

“Our main challenge has to do with social engineering, there is lack of knowledge in addition to infrastructure problems. Some industrialists are offloading their responsibilities to the man on the street. They are just pouring everything into the waters and that’s why the city is failing to treat the water. Until industry changes their behaviour, we’ll continue to have problems,” said Muserere, adding that failure to engage in hygienic practices is leading to high costs of water in the city.

Muserere said that the Harare currently services approximately half a million people as well as two and a half million people in the satellite towns of Chitungwiza, Epworth, Norton and Ruwa.

“All the satellite towns are upstream in the water catchment areas which means that they are also offloading waste into Harare’s water source,” he said. “The satellite towns are not honouring their dues to the city by not attending to their waste water systems.”

However, the capital cannot disconnect the four satellite towns because this could trigger outbreaks of cholera and typhoid.

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Faith Chivava: A Passion for Water By

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Growing up in the rural area of Gutu, Zimbabwe, Faith Chivava discovered an unusual passion for water that she describes herself as a water angel.

Presently employed as the Mazowe Catchment Hydrologist at ZINWA, Chivava aged 29 is one of the few female hydrologists in the country.

“I am not in the water sector by default or just because I studied the subject and now have a job. I’ve always had a passion for water. I’m a water angel,” she said.

Chivava said that her love for water was so intense that she found herself engaged in several water projects at her rural home.

“I used to dig and prepare wells for drinking water because I did not want my family to fetch water from far away and from unsafe sources. I put all the knowledge I acquired at school to practical use,” she said`, adding that her mother nickname her “mucheri wematsime” or digger of wells.

Despite her passion for water, Chivava could not study appropriate subjects to further her interest because of serious limitations at her rural high school.

“I had no opportunity to do science subjects but I really wanted to achieve my goal to become a scientist in the field of water and environment,” she said.

In 2002, Chivava enrolled into Chaplin High School in Gweru for her Advanced Level Studies and she studied Geography, Mathematics and Management of Business.

“By that time I was now focused; my dream was clear and I was sure I was going to do something about water resources,” Chiva said.

As providence would have it, Chivavava found out that the Midlands State University (MSU) was offering a degree programme in land and water resources; she quickly jumped at the opportunity. Because she had background in the sciences, the authorities at MSU refused to enrol into the programmes of her choice.

“I remeebr crying in the office of the chairperson of the programme. I did manage to convince them I was going to work hard and pass, and they eventually enrolled me,” she said.

Between 2004 and 2008, Chivava studeid for a degree in land and water resources. Married with one child, Chivava said that though the field of water mnagement is still male dominated, she is making her mark through hard work, dedication and perseverance.

“Persistence is always proving that you can do your work without offending anyone. That’s my motto. At the end of the day, my male counterparts respect me because I’m capable of doing things despite that I’m a woman,” she said.

Chivava added that water is the future of every country under the sun and needed to be managed with ultimate care.

“I beleieve if water is not managed well today and if poor decisions are made it will have a negative impact on everything about the future,” she said.

She said that he job involves assessing water resources through collating data on river flows, ground water, dam levels, land and water use.

“I am responsible for analysing the data which is teh use for decision making and future planning,” she said.

 

 

In Zimbabwe, Subsistence Farmers Face Water Woes

At a public borehole in Zviyambe, a village in the backyard of Zimbabwe, approximately 250 kilometres away from Harare, the capital city, butterflies, goats, cattle and human beings mix and mingle in edenic fashion all in search of the precious liquid: water. Under a blazing sun, Sekai Mabika (not her real name) and her sister take turns to fill up buckets with water all the while shooing the goats away while the butterflies flutter hither and thither sipping at the water spilled to the ground and the cattle standby for their turn to drink water.

According to Sekai, she makes three trips everyday to fetch water at the public borehole, approximately four kilometers away from her homestead.

“It’s a painful trip, but it has to be done otherwise we will have no drinking water at home. All our homestead wells are dry,” she says, wiping sweat from her brow. “And, tomorrow, I have to do this again.”

The mid-afternoon sun, hot like a possessed devil, casts a shadow across her face as she balances the bucketful of water on her head and walks towards her homestead, her sister trailing her. Throughout the day the sun blasts across the landscape in this area literally skyrocketing daytime temperatures, and in the process, wilting young crops and drying up water sources, making subsistence farming very difficult. Continue reading

The Morality of Water

waterandsanitationPoverty, inequality and unequal power relationships are the main cause of the current global water and sanitation crisis, according to a paper titled “The human right to water and sanitation: benefits and limitations” which is contained in a UN report: The Right to Water – Current Situation and Future Challenges.

Despite the gravity of the situation, water and sanitation rarely make the headlines in the news media. The financial and human cost of the crisis is humongous.

“The global damage caused by diseases and productivity losses related to unclean water and poor sanitation is estimated at a staggering US 170 billion dollars per year with developing countries’ economies bearing the brunt of this burden. Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 5 % of GDP or US 28,4 billion per year, a figure that exceeded total aid flow and debt relief into the region in 2003,” states the report.

Such a hemorrhage is clearly unacceptable, and for Sub-Saharan Africa it is clear that lack of access to water and sanitation is not only about health and development; it is an economic imperative. Continue reading

The Imminent Threat of Global Water Wars

There is no consensus among water analysts on whether there will be global wars over water ownership, but all factors point to a likely explosion of both intra and inter-state conflict of the precious liquid.

According to UNESCO, globally there are 262 international river basins: 59 in Africa, 52 in Asia, 73 in Europe, 61 in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 17 in North America, and overall, 145 countries have territories that include at least one shared river basin.

UNESCO states that between 1948 and 1999, there have been 1,831 “international interactions” recorded, including 507 conflicts, 96 neutral or non-significant events, and most importantly, 1,228 instances of cooperation around water-related issues.

As a result, some experts argue that the idea of water wars is rather far fetched given the precedent of water cooperation that has been exhibited by many of the countries around the world.

“Despite the potential problem, history has demonstrated that cooperation, rather than conflict, is likely in shared basins,” says UNESCO.

However, the fact remains that throughout the world, water supplies are running dry, and the situation is being compounded by inappropriate management of water resources which will unravel previous international cooperation around water.

“Water has four primary characteristics of political importance: extreme importance, scarcity, maldistribution, and being shared. These make internecine conflict over water more likely than similar conflicts over other resources,” says Frederick Frey, of the University of Pennsylvania.

“Moreover, tendencies towards water conflicts are exacerbated by rampant population growth and water-wasteful economic development. A national and international ‘power shortage,’ in the sense of an inability to control these two trends, makes the problem even more alarming,” he adds.

Already, a third of the global population is said to be short of water, sparking fears of social fallout and violence, especially among the world’s poorest and most malnourished people.

Water is perhaps one of the most important yet overlooked elements to earthly life. That’s why the depletion of this precious resource portents serious clashes between communities and nations.

Water, that special liquid which is essential for the survival of all living things, could become a bombshell that will rip apart communities and nations if not managed properly in today’s world.

As global water sources become depleted due to a combination of factors including overpopulation and overuse, it is inevitable that there will be an increase in competition for the special liquid.

Both climatic and human-induced changes are having a negative impact on the world’s water resources. The increasing variability caused by climate change will have numerous consequences on human life.

According to the World Water Council, population growth – coupled with industrialization and urbanization – will result in an increasing demand for water and will have serious consequences on the environment.

Potential social and political division and unrest over access to water will hit hard marginalized populations in developing countries.

As water resources run dry, there will be a reluctance to share the resource in a peaceful and equitable manner.

According to US military analysts, “global-warming water problems will make poor, unstable parts of the world – the Middle East, Africa and South Asia – even more prone to wars, terrorism and the need for international intervention.”

It is predicted that sea-level rise floods will potentially destabilize South Asia countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The Middle East and North Africa is also faced with acute water shortages, a situation that will pit the countries in the region against each other.

“The only matter that could take Egypt to war against is water,” the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat tellingly said in 1979.

Water security is increasingly becoming a military priority for many of the countries in the Middle East, and the threat of wars between countries is real.

In Africa, the scarcity of water will result in food insecurity for already marginalized communities, especially in the rural areas where the majority of the people live. And this will form the basis for internal extremism as people will be forced to migrate and compete for resources.

In all corners of the globe, the animal kingdom will suffer immensely as human beings fight each other over access to water.

“Water is connected to everything we care about – energy, human health, food production and politics,” said Peter Glieck, president of the Pacific Institute, a global think tank, “And that fact alone means we better pay more attention to the security connections. Climate will effect all of those things. Water resources are especially vulnerable to climate change.”