Desperation and panic grips Bulawayo residents

Published: 09 July 2019
DESPERATION and panic have hit Bulawayo as most suburbs have gone without water for eight days following major refurbishment works at the city's reservoirs with residents accusing council of poor planning.

As of yesterday, suburbs such as Nkulumane, Tshabalala, Sizinda, Newton West, Emakhandeni and Luveve had gone for eight days without running water. Scores of people thronged boreholes yesterday while some have reportedly temporarily kept their children away from school for fear of disease outbreaks due to lack of water.

A Chronicle news crew witnessed people selling 20 litres of water for $3 in Sizinda suburb after collecting it with a drum from a burst pipe in Belmont on Sunday. Senior citizens said they are struggling to get water from boreholes as they are elbowed out of queues by youths in the scramble for the life-giving liquid.  

The water crisis comes at a time when the municipality is implementing the Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project (BWSSIP) funded by the African Development Bank.

The programme is meant to improve municipal water supply and sanitation services in the city to improve health and social wellbeing of residents.

The city council has since advised members of the public to be patient as pumping would take a while to stabilise and for water to reach all areas.

In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube said all areas that have still not received water should expect to have their taps running today.

Council yesterday shut down the Magwegwe reservoir after briefly opening it on Saturday, citing low capacity. It said areas served by Criterion and Magwegwe reservoirs are expected to start having water today. Suburbs fed by the Criterion reservoir include Nkulumane, Tshabalala, Bellevue, Sizinda, West Somerton, Nketa, and Newton West while areas supplied by the Magwegwe reservoir are Emakhandeni, Luveve, part of Entumbane and Cowdray Park.  Residents of those areas entered their eighth day yesterday without water.

"Delays should be expected at Criterion and Magwegwe reservoirs as water level has dropped to 1.25 metres at Criterion. The water treatment capacity at the plant is still very minimal due to ongoing works. The plant is currently not working at full capacity. All areas that did not receive water are scheduled to be opened in the morning of 9 July 2019. The Magwegwe reservoir level has dropped down to critical level, 7 feet, due to high consumption. All areas fed by the reservoir have thus been closed. Magwegwe reservoir is largely fed from the Criterion reservoir which is still operating at minimum capacity," he said.  

Mr Dube said areas supplied by Criterion reservoir will start getting water when the level at Criterion reservoir gets above two metres.  As of yesterday it was at 1.25 metres.

Bulawayo United Residents Association chairman Mr Winos Dube said the situation was terrible in some suburbs. He said the local authority should have planned its rehabilitation works stage by stage instead of implementing the project at once as it has left residents stranded.

"To be honest what the local authority is doing is inhumane.  

"They knew all along that they were meant to carry out this rehabilitation and they should have planned for it such that the water cuts should have occurred stage by stage. People are falling sick out here and council is just turning a blind eye. It is worrying," said Mr Dube.

- chronicle
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