from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare
HARARE – DENOUNCED as a human rights violation, the water shortages in Zimbabwe’s capital city – Harare have raised fears of an outbreak of cholera similar to the one that killed over 4 000 people more than a decade ago.
Human rights groups have urged the central government and the Harare City Council to urgently act to avert a crisis.
The water shortages are the result of the city’s obsolete water infrastructure, a ballooning population, severe droughts and pervasive government corruption and mismanagement.
Alleged poor governance and disputes between the central government and the Harare City Council have also hindered efforts to address the problems.
“Harare’s long unresolved water crisis is a ticking time bomb of magnified health risks that forces residents to seek alternative, often unsafe water sources,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
He added, “Zimbabwean authorities at the national and local levels should work together to promptly and permanently end Harare’s dangerous water problems.”
The infrastructure for piped water in Harare was developed in the 1950s, before Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, and designed for a population of 300 000 people.
Currently, Harare’s greater metropolitan area has about 4,5 million people, more than half of whom have no access to clean water and are at risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
HRW argues the water shortages are a violation of section 77 of Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution, which entitles every person has the right to safe, clean and potable water.
Zimbabwe is also a party to African regional and international human rights treaties that recognize the right to water and sanitation.
Harare’s water supply comes from Lake Chivero dam water, which the city’s mayor, Jacob Mafume, said is heavily contaminated with raw sewage that it requires many different chemicals to purify.
The city is cash-strapped to afford all chemicals.
Ian Makone, a Harare city councillor, blamed leakages in the old, dilapidated, and inadequate water distribution network for the water crisis.
– CAJ News