This year's World Water Day commemorations came at a time Zimbabwe and a number of Africancountries are grappling with the issue of water scarcity in both the rural and urban areas. Many African citiesand towns are currently implementing water demand management as they are already in a situation of severeand permanent water stress.
The Human Development Report of 2006 titled "Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the GlobalWater Crisis", which was launched on September 9 2006 in Cape Town, South Africa, highlights thatclean water and sanitation are amongst the most powerful drivers for human development. The report alsohighlights poverty, unequal access, wars, migration and unsustainable consumption patterns as the maincontributors of the crisis. The report puts forward the important message that we are in the midst of a crisis inwater and sanitation that overwhelmingly affects the poor.
A recent World Health Organisation report entitled "Meeting the Millennium Development Goals, DrinkingWater and Sanitation Target; The Urban and Rural Challenge of the Decade" cites two main challenges tothe desire by many developing countries in the world to meet some of the Millennium Development Goalssuch as fighting poverty, inequality, hunger and illness and to reduce by half the number of people withoutaccess to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. The challenges cited in the report are: the rapid pace ofurbanisation, which requires a major effort even to keep the current coverage levels and a huge backlog ofrural people without access to basic sanitation and safe drinking water, which calls for an intensivemobilisation of resources to reduce the vast gap between urban and rural populations.
Coping With Water Scarcity in Zimbabwe
Coping with water scarcity is a process that requires meticulous planning and implementation atnational, community, household and individual level. It's not something that happens overnight. TheGovernment of present day Zimbabwe realised in the mid-1990s that water resources development andmanagement is not all about civil engineering, supply-oriented and sectorial interests-triggered solutions.It was then that a shift was embarked upon from the supply-oriented solutions to demand oriented andstakeholder-centred water management principles. This policy shift culminated in the repeal of theWater Act of 1976 and the passing into law of the Water Act of 1998 and the establishment of Zinwato run and manage all of Zimbabwe's water resources.
The new Water Act has provisions and principles which are meant to safeguard the rights of access towater for future generations through the abolition of the old water rights of the Water Act of 1976 andthe introduction of the permit system, which can be reviewed periodically, ensure equitable access towater for all Zimbabweans, to protect the environment (polluter pays principle) and to increaseefficient use of water (user pays principle).
Through the Water Act of 1998 the Government succeeded in decentralising water management inZimbabwe as well as to inculcate into the mindsets of Zimbabweans that water is both a social andeconomic good which should be priced accordingly.To cope with water scarcity in Zimbabwe the Government embarked on massive dam constructionprojects and water quality monitoring programmes through Zinwa.
Zinwa has over the past few years been fighting with local authorities over their discharge of poorquality effluent into the country's river systems. Quite a number of towns and cities have been taken tocourt by the Authority. Rivers clean-up programmes were carried out by the Authority to try andreclaim the environment's beauty in different parts of the country.But the battle could not be won by spraying the rivers to remove water weed as the source of thepollution remained in place. The local authorities were failing to upgrade their sewerage reticulationsystems. Some local authorities even approached Zinwa to take over the management of water andsanitation systems in their jurisdiction.
Hence the Government directive that Zinwa takes over the management of water and seweragereticulation responsibilities from the local authorities in all of the country's towns and cities.Demand for water has surpassed the supply capacity of most of the country's urban areas. To cope withthe issue of water scarcity Zinwa has started moving in to take over the management of water andsanitation systems in the country's towns and cities. Major programmes to rehabilitate and upgrade thetowns' water and sewage reticulation systems have been laid down.
Water demand management programmes are being implemented in Harare Metropolitan province andother towns facing water shortages to ensure equitable access to the scarce resource by all.
Coping With Water Scarcity Begins With You
While the Government, Zinwa and the local authorities are working hard to cope with water scarcity indifferent areas, end water users must get more and more involved in water management programmesin their areas.In the 1990s Bulawayo embarked on a massive water conservation and public education programmewhen faced with massive water shortages. The "Bulawayo Must Live" campaign of the 1990s waslargely successful because the Bulawayo community co-operated with their civic leaders in addressingthe problem.Water demand management in Bulawayo, Harare or any other place in the world can only succeed ifthe water users are willing to change their attitude towards water.
Once residents realise that efficient water use is to their benefit and is not a punitive measure by theservice provider, then all water shortage problems being faced in the country are half-solved.Building new sources of water, upgrading the water and sewerage systems, attending to leakages andsetting commercial water tariffs will all come to naught if water users continue to regard water as agift from God and continue with their business as usual attitude.
Water management is everyone's responsibility. Play your part today. Save water in your house, inyour office, in that public park and report bursts and leakages to Zinwa offices nearest to you.The drop that you save on your tap will count at the end of the day. Save water today and always, afterall, the years 2005 and 2015 were declared "The International Decade for Action" by the UnitedNations.
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