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Bulawayo loses lustre as city runs dry

Local News
Bulawayo mayor David Coltart recently  engaged the African Development Bank for funding to address the city’s water challenges.

THE City of Bulawayo is very beautiful; its straight roads are devoid of any chaos associated with traffic congestion in many African cities including Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

Zimbabwe’s second largest city also boasts of having the most welcoming residents.

But all that is under threat because of the crippling water crisis where residents have little water to spare with visitors.

Bulawayo has run dry and the toilets barely have any running water.

According to Nyasha Ngezi, a mother of two who resides in the populous Mzilikazi suburb, the Bulawayo City Council provides water from Saturday to Monday.

“So, basically, we do not have water for four days. We have to collect as much water as possible in buckets and other containers,” she told NewsDay Weekender.

“It’s not easy. Some of us have children who go to school on a daily basis. You always need water.”

Mpopoma ward 9 resident Aleck Mudzingwa said residents deserved a break from the perennial water challenges.

 “The days for lip service to the issue are gone,” Mudzingwa said.

“What is needed is for the authorities to start looking for a lasting solution to the water challenges, which we have been facing for many years.”

Without mincing his words, Mudzingwa said there are some children who have not seen water coming off the taps since they were born.

“It is just a wonder how we have been discussing the same issues for years without a clear solution to the problem,” he said.

Mpopoma ward 9 councillor and former Bulawayo deputy mayor Donaldson Mabuto acknowledged that the city was facing several challenges in terms of water.

“The water challenges can never be overemphasised but we have been able to come up with mitigated measures to address the situation,” he said.

“This is why we have been lobbying the government to declare Bulawayo a water crisis city, so that it can open funding for potential investors.”

He said the council had already decommissioned Umzingwane with the possibility of the Lower Ncema dam and Upper Ncema going a similar route before August.

“We are faced with the ghost of 1992, whereby in October 1992, the city was only left with water to supply the city for only three weeks,” Mabutho said.

“It was a crisis. But we are looking forward to seeing the government coming to support the Ministry of Finance, because our high-yielding sources need to be equipped.

“They need transformers and other accessories, so that they can give Bulawayo at least 20 to 30 megalitres a day to supply the western part of Bulawayo.”

He was referring to the Nyamandlovu aquifer where a sizeable number of boreholes are functioning.

A well field was drilled in the Nyamandlovu aquifer in 1996 for immediate water supply for the city as a short to medium intervention to the city’s water crisis.

“We are also looking forward to the Glassbrook Dam in Filabusi. If it gets funding. It’s about US$14 million which is required to fund that dam. It will actually assist the city to solve the water crisis,” Mabuto said.

He said the recently discovered aquifer near Matopo could also be critical in ending Bulawayo’s water woes.

“If we can get potential funders and partners to assist us to draw water from there, it can go a long way in assisting this city. But over and above, the government should play its part.

“When a city is faced with a crisis, we expect funds to be allocated to the city. Devolution funds can be diverted to assist, because we are in a crisis and water is a basic need which is needed by residents almost on a daily basis,” he said.

Early this year, the Bulawayo City extended the 120-hour water rationing schedule owing to reduced pumping capacity at the Ncema Dam plant where there are ongoing maintenance works.

According to recent reports, Bulawayo's water crisis may not ease in the short term as most of the boreholes being drilled by the government in and around the city are yielding no water.

Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution secretary Paul Nyoni attributed this to the water table in the city which has gone down.

“We have sunk boreholes in the city using the drilling rig from the government, but the main problem is that there is a high percentage of dry holes,” Nyoni said.

“At most times, we will have a target to sink several boreholes, but because of the water table, we do not sink the desired number.”

The Bulawayo metropolitan province received one drilling rig from the central government in 2023 to help ease the city’s water crisis.

Bulawayo mayor David Coltart recently  engaged the African Development Bank for funding to address the city’s water challenges.

Coltart and fellow councillors have been pleading with the government to declare the city’s water crisis a national disaster to unlock funding.

In response, the government appointed a 20-member technical committee to oversee implementation of intervention projects over a 100-day period.

The committee has done little in providing solutions as the water crisis has worsened. Scholars studying the water crisis in Bulawayo, Nel and Berry, writing in the Development Southern Africa journal noted that the city is running out of water due to a combination of poor planning, financial constraints, political intransigence and, of course, the vagaries of the weather.

“Being situated in a low rainfall area, it is not unreasonable to expect a city with a rapidly expanding population to have the development of water resources as one of its top priorities,” they said.

“The situation in Bulawayo, however, is typical of that found in a number of urbanising centres in the Third World.

“The lack of adequate planning and increasing demands on infrastructure, coupled with limited financial resources, results in cities being overcome by their own rapidly increasing populations.”

They further noted that the drought had compounded the situation, invoking wide-ranging intervention in an attempt to avert a crisis of national proportions.

“The experience of Bulawayo must serve to warn other urban areas of the consequences of failing to provide adequately for burgeoning populations.”

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