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Bulawayo sewer system breaks down

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Fortune Nkosi

 

Bulawayo—The country’s second largest city’s sewer system is operating at 20 percent capacity, exposing young children and residents to sewage-borne diseases, according to Bulawayo mayor, David Coltart.

Speaking at a prayer and thanksgiving ceremony held at the Large City Hall on Tuesday, Coltart

said there was urgent need to rehabilitate the former industrial hub’s sewerage system.

“Many of you, I know, are battling with raw sewage in your yards,” he said.

He recently toured Thorngrove, one of the suburbs in Bulawayo, in the company of a city councillor, Lezzina Muhamed, and said he was “appalled by what I saw”, with raw sewage flowing in the streets and near houses, schools as well as health centres.

“That is a consequence of our sewage systems not functioning at full capacity. They are working at about 20 percent capacity. We need to pray that the Lord provides us with the opportunities to enable us to rehabilitate and repair those sewage facilities,” added Coltart.

He, however, hoped that the sewage crisis would be ameliorated.

“Council is working with private companies and others to invest in the rehabilitation of our sewage works,” he said. “We need to pray specifically for that so that we can deal with those potential health crises.”

At the beginning of the year when the disease was spreading nationally, Bulawayo still had a single case of cholera.

However, four cases under treatment were reported at Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital last month.

The Bulawayo mayor said the city needed US$14 million to address water shortages in the city where some residents are only receiving the precious liquid once a month, with some areas enduring longer dry periods.

The city recently unsuccessfully applied to government to have Bulawayo declared a water emergency area so that it could get special support to solve the crisis.

Coltart, though, said central government was cooperating with the municipality to resolve the water crisis.

“In looking at water there is now a spirit of cooperation between the city council and central government where there’s an understanding of what the problems are regarding water and what needs to be done about it,” Coltart said.

“We need US$14 million to address the short-term and medium-term issues. There is consensus with the central government that we need to build Glass Block Dam and the pipeline from Glass Block to Ncema Dam.

“We need to raise 150 million dollars to build the Glass Block Dam and a pipeline, to rehabilitate Ncema pump station and expand Tuli reservoir on the outskirts of our city,” he said.

The Glass Block Dam, proposed to be built in Filabusi by a team of engineers, will have the capacity to provide 70 percent of the water consumed by the entire city.

In February, the mayor indicated that the city council was aiming to complete the necessary feasibility studies for the proposed Glass Block Dam by end of April.

A civil society leader and expert on local governance, Khumbulani Maphosa, says there is need to treat the sewerage challenges in Bulawayo “from a systems approach.”

“If we look at the sewer problem from a service delivery angle alone, we will miss the mark,” he told NewsHub.

“We need to look at it from a broader governance (perspective)…The sewage question is actually an indication of the failure of centralisation of power. Remember, the local authority has to have a budget approved by the central government, procurement is controlled by the central government, and the local authority operates under the tight auspices of the central government,” he added.

He urged speedy devolution of services provision in line with the provisions of the Zimbabwean constitution.