Zimbabwe heads for a clash with Zambia over Zambezi river water

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Zimbabwe’s chances of drawing water from the Zambezi River to the Gwayi-Shangani Dam face stiff resistance from Zambia, which has neither signed nor ratified a protocol with Zimbabwe as it is claiming that three quarters of the Zambezi river basins are on its part of the border.

Zimbabwe shares the Zambezi River with eight countries, which are supposed to sign and ratify the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (Zamcom) protocol, which will allow Zimbabwe to draw water from the Zambezi River.

Under the Zamcom protocol, six of the eight Sadc riparian states, which include Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, and Angola, are supposed to sign and ratify the agreement before Zimbabwe can draw water from the river.

This is necessary as phase three of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) will require Zimbabwe to draw water from the Zambezi River to the Gwayi-Shangani Dam.

However, to date four countries have signed and ratified the protocol while three have signed and not ratified. Zambia is the only country that has neither signed nor ratified the Protocol.

Ratification is the adoption of the protocol by each of the countries’ parliaments.

The long awaited MZWP involves three phases. Phase one of the project entails the construction of the Gwayi/Shangani Dam that is currently incomplete and phase two involves connecting a 260km pipeline from the Gwayi-Shangani Dam to Bulawayo, while phase three will require Zimbabwe to draw water from the Zambezi River to the Gwayi-Shangani Dam.

The Minister Of Water Resources and Development, Sipepa Nkomo, this week confirmed to NewsDay that the Zambians have not signed and ratified the protocol.

“Zambia has neither signed nor ratified the protocol, the reason they gave is that 75% of the Zambezi River basin is in Zambia and they argued that they also contribute 42% of Zambezi River water. Therefore, Zambia wants this natural advantage to be factored in when it comes to water abstraction from the Zambezi River, something not currently considered in the standing Protocol,” Nkomo said.

“We understand the Zambian position and we have pledged to lobby other Sadc riparian states for a consideration of their viewpoint. It was on the basis of this mutual agreement with Zambia that I engaged Botswana, as a first port of call in an ongoing tour of Sadc riparian states,” he added.

The MZWP is seen as a permanent solution to end the water crisis in the Matabeleland region.

Unreliable water supply has in the recent past forced several companies to relocate from Bulawayo to other provinces reducing employment levels in the region.

Over 60 000 new jobs are expected to be created once the project is complete.