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Water woes change lives in Chi-town

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THE water crisis that has hit Chitungwiza has negatively affected residents’ lives in the town, transforming them into some kind of water scavengers.

Report by Jairos Saunyama

People’s timetables have changed, sleeping hours have been reduced and water vendors have emerged, cashing in on the situation.

Well diggers are also enjoying thriving business.

Long, winding queues at the few boreholes dotted across the town’s residential suburbs are notable everyday, while illegal wells are being dug as people become desperate for the precious liquid.

“We have reduced our sleeping hours to almost five hours per night. We are waking up early as 1am to go and fetch water at the boreholes.

“This is the ideal time for me because many people will be asleep though at times I find few people already up,” 41-year old Tariro Mushinga who resides in Zengeza said.

Another resident, Maria Sarawoga (29), a hairdresser, echoed the same sentiments and said the crisis had affected her work.

“I am now going late to work because I have to make sure that there is enough water in the house. Most of the times a person can fetch only 20 litres before letting others fetch some so that everyone has at least a bucket of water,” she said.

With most taps running dry as well as boreholes during the day, residents have resorted to well-digging, which they also said was not helping as the water table is getting far.

“I could not cope with the idea of going to the borehole because of the long queues, but it seems as if the problem still exists as the water table is getting lower almost every day.

“I do not know the reason, but I cannot believe that there is not enough water for my family though I have a well at my door,” said 41-year-old Rodwell Makoni of St Mary’s.

Toilets have become a health timebomb. Residents have resorted to the bucket system and are dumping their waste in Manyame River and other open spaces.

A visit to Chitungwiza this week revealed that most open spaces were flooded with human waste and children were seen defecating in open spaces in broad daylight.

“This has become our way of life. We are now using the bush as our toilets. At night, we do our business in buckets or newspapers before disposing them down by the river early in the morning,” an elderly woman from St Mary’s, who refused to be named, said.

With many residents facing the huge challenge, some young enterprising men have capitalised on the situation and are now selling water at designated points in Chitungwiza.

A 20-litre bucket of water is ranging between US$2 and US$5.

The water is reportedly coming from those who own boreholes in Harare, especially from the low-density areas.

“We are buying water which we believe is coming from Harare. It is very expensive, but we have no option and their water is safe and clean for drinking,” a resident from Unit B who identified herself as Constance said.

Not only water dealers are getting money, but well diggers too are taking advantage of the situation and charge exorbitantly.

Some women travel every weekend either to Harare or Seke for laundry, while others use the dirty and smelly water from Manyame River and other open water bodies.

“I have my cousin sister who stays in Dema and she has a well, so every Saturday I travel there to do laundry, dry it there and come back,” Stella Chinyowa said.

Meanwhile, a health hazard is looming the town has not had water for weeks leaving residents relying on unprotected sources.

Residents who spoke to NewsDay appealed to the responsible authorities to quickly address the situation, which they fear might result in the 2008 situation where more than 2 000 people died of cholera.

“We are surviving by the grace of God. Our children sometimes do complain of stomach pains and we believe it is because of this water problem. The toilets are dry and the chambers are full to the brim, ” said a resident.

Some council clinics that offer maternity services are reportedly ordering pregnant mothers to bring their own drinking water as the clinics do not have running water.

If the situation is not rectified quickly, one shudders to imagine what would happen in the coming hot months.

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