THE country’s largest cities of Harare and Bulawayo have sent out chilling messages that they are running out of water. Normally, at this time of the year, the country should be experiencing widespread rains as the rainfall season passes its climax.
Dams should be spilling, but this year the heavens have not been that kind to us as the climate change phenomenon takes its toll.
The fact that Harare and Bulawayo have started to ration water before the rainfall season has ended spells doom and gloom because it is going to be another seven to eight months before the next rains.
Weather forecasters warned us as way back as last year that the country would receive poor rainfall. However, as usual, our government completely ignored the early warnings of a major drought coming our way. Even citizens largely ignored the early warnings. The majority simply put their hope and faith in the mighty power of God and failed to act cautiously by harvesting the little water that fell this rainfall season.
What makes our hapless situation even most untenable is the fact that we keep failing to plan. Failure to plan, as a country and people, is increasingly becoming our hallmark and the calamitous water situation facing Harare and Bulawayo highlights the country’s poor levels of planning bordering on the apparent lack of seriousness on the part of our government.
Harare and Bulawayo have had recurrent water problems and solutions were put forward as far back as well before Zimbabwe’s 1980 independence. Water solutions for both major cities were identified at Kunzvi and the Zambezi River for Harare and Bulawayo, respectively. But three decades have since passed without anything tangible taking place. Feasibility studies have been done and people displaced to make way for new dams to supply the two cities. Now with the climate change phenomenon bringing in new complications, the water situation for, not only the two major urban areas – but for all other sprawling urban settlements, threatens to trigger a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportion.
For decades, government has paid lip service to its promises to build the Kunzvi Dam to supply water for the capital Harare. Government has also acted lackadaisically on plans to draw water from the mighty Zambezi River to quench the ever thirsty City of Bulawayo. While government has clearly shown insincerity over plans to provide reliable water supplies for the two cities, populations have been ballooning, resulting in the demand for water more than quadrupling.
If our government had acted soon after independence when donors, other nations and financial institutions were still eager to see the country succeed, we should have avoided this situation.
It is high time our government and people take water issues seriously because it seems everyone has grown to forget that water is life. If this year’s drought does not act as a wake-up call, then we are doomed as a people. It’s high time our government acted on Harare and Bulawayo’s debilitating water situation.