BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
BULAWAYO residents are wary of a cholera or typhoid outbreak in the city after the local authority indefinitely shutdown water supplies to the entire city on Tuesday without notice.
The indefinite shutdown comes after the council, also without notice, on July 1 cut off water supplies to pave way for a major refurbishment on the Criterion water treatment plant.
On Tuesday, the Bulawayo city council (BCC) said it had failed to complete the refurbishment works which necessitated the indefinite shutdown of water
supplies. According to the council, this is a first major upgrade of its water treatment plants since the 1940s.
The project, Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project (BWSSIP), is being funded by the African Development Bank.
Council promised to deploy water bowsers to meet demand, but these have been nowhere to be seen. The only alternative water sources are boreholes, but these
are overwhelmed, while some have broken down.
Some suburbs have gone for more than a week without water, with desperate residents now resorting to vandalising reticulation pipes in search of the beverage.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) acting co-ordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu blamed the local authority for putting residents’ lives at risk by not
coming up with a Plan B during water works infrastructure repair.
“Bulawayo is, therefore, in utmost danger of a cholera and typhoid outbreak. This reflects poor planning and management of water resources by BCC,” Ndlovu said
“Given the continued failure to finalise the project and scanty information from BCC and the failure by BCC to provide Plan B, BPRA is calling for a shutdown
of schools until the situation returns to normalcy. BPRA is further calling for heads to roll in council and for relevant powers to declare a State of
Emergency in Bulawayo.”
Bulawayo provincial education director Olicah Kaira admitted the water cuts had affected learning at schools saying: “It is not easy as we are now making use
of bowsers, drums and JoJo tanks since schools need water to be fully functional.”
Bulawayo Mayor Solomon Mguni, apologised for the dry taps, saying the water works were a necessary “pain” to improve water delivery to the residents.
“The rehabilitation of water treatment and pumping infrastructure under the African Development Bank’s BSWIP grant continues. There are times when we must take
the pain to improve efficiency and effectiveness of water delivery to our people. We apologise to our residents and stakeholders for the seven days of dry
taps,” Mguni said.
The BCC has exempted hospitals, industry, mines, central business district and prisons from the blanket shutdown.