HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsOf climate change and water conservation

Of climate change and water conservation


From the complex and intricate discourse of carbon emissions and their subsequent cuts, reductions, compliance or simply taking no action at all, to the palliative and massaging of Cancun, where wishes, as usual failed to become horses, climate change issues will remain skeletons in our cupboards for some time.

In fact, just like our shadows, it will continue to mimic its presence. We are together with climate change.

Besides the issue of our desperate attempt to control emissions or imagining controlling them, another scourge is looming and is coming fast. It is the issue of water.

The African continent, especially in the North and southern Africa, the scarcity of water will send shock waves in the spines of inhabitants of these regions.

Research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights that, in Africa, by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to water stress due to climate change.

The Stern Review of 2006 also notes that, people will feel the impact of climate change strongly through changes in the distribution of water around the world.

The focus of this discussion is Africa especially southern Africa. It is also the continent with one of the best water managing country, Egypt.

For centuries, Egypt has managed water resources using simple traditional methods, from the Shaduf to modern day irrigation methods.

This is not to say that we were ignorant about water conservation techniques but the issue of Egypt has been properly recorded and documented.

In light of the devastating effects of global warming, Zimbabwe and southern Africa can do much better by cooperating in managing shared river basins.

The Zambezi River is shared by about six countries, namely Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Angola. South Africa and Lesotho are currently engaged in the Lesotho High Water Project (LHWP).

This appears to be a welcome form of cooperation needed in interstate water management.

Zambia claims to own 75% of the Zambezi River thereby acting as a big brother as well as a stumbling block.

As a result of this a major programme in the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project remains stalled.

Yes, this issue is at a macro-level but let us be found more water conservation strategies at micro-level.

Local small scale farmers need to construct small water collection and storage facilities that they would use to supplement their gardening and domestic requirements.

Although this is happening in many parts of Zimbabwe, those who are not seriously engaged in small scale farming may think it’s not for them.

Rural communities need to be provided with subsidised plastic water storage tanks which they can use to harvest water from rooftops, store and treat it for future use.

How many mega-litres are lost through run-off? In their gardens they need to improve on the capacity of their shallow wells so that they harness as much water as possible.

This helps people in achieving water self sufficiency in order to avoid petty water conflicts.

In the event of droughts; the small scale farmers would use their storage facilities to grow vegetables or crop varieties to improve their livelihoods and subsistence.

Besides market gardening, the harnessed water could be used to grow trees and woodlots in order to reclaim the lost vegetation and shade. People could also practice fish farming so as to improve their diets and fight malnutrition.

The need to emphasise on small scale water collection schemes comes as a result of the poor state of our rivers which no longer hold water due to siltation and land degradation.

Peter Makwanya writes in his own capacity

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