Water scarcity hits Tanzania, Zimbabwe

Authorities in both countries resort to water rationing to address acute shortage

Jeffrey Moyo and Kizito Makoye   | 20.11.2021
Water scarcity hits Tanzania, Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania

Tanzania and Zimbabwe may be hundreds of miles apart, but acute water deficiency these days has joined these two African countries.

It has been years now for Nyirenda Mudhawe, 47, a resident of Mabvuku, a high-density suburb in Harare, capital of the southern African country of Zimbabwe, having seen water running from the taps.

Every morning, she scrambles to collect the little water from the boreholes dug by donors or the nearby stream, which have the contaminated water left in their basins.

“I have no choice because we have no running water here anymore and we have to find it anywhere whether in streams like the one passing through just next to my house,” Mudhawu told Anadolu Agency.

Such is the scarcity of water in the towns and cities that Zimbabwean authorities have resorted to rationing of the precocious liquid also known as the elixir of life.

To overcome the incessant water shortages authorities in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, introduced a two-day water blackout.

Last month, Gweru, a Zimbabwean city in the Midlands province, also announced water rationing, as the water table has fallen dangerously low in the city’s catchment areas.

Other Zimbabwean cities like Kadoma, Kwekwe, and Chegutu have not been spared either by the water deficits gripping towns and cities.

Although the right to have access to sufficient water is enshrined in Zimbabwe’s constitution, activists say that residents these days receive little or no water at all.

Reuben Akili, program manager for the Combined Harare Residents Trust, said the lack of building water infrastructure over the past many years has led to this crisis.

“Water has become a national issue mostly in urban areas because of the water infrastructure deficits. The rapid expansion of cities in the past 15 years without the construction of dams, replacement of aging water pipes, and expanding water purification plants, has caused the shortages,” he said.

Human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga said the failure of the Zimbabwean government to devolve powers to city councils to build water infrastructure and to borrow money from international donors has led to this crisis.

- More worries for Tanzania

Hundreds of miles away, authorities in the East African country of Tanzania, have also declared a water emergency to cope with the crippling shortage due to recurring drought spells across the country due to below-average rainfall.

The water level in the Ruvu River - the main source of supply for the city of six million inhabitants - has fallen to its lowest point. The rising water usage and low rainfall have further compounded the crises with taps running completely dry.

Tanzania’s Meteorological Agency Director-General Agnes Kijazi predicted that prolonged spells of drought will persist till next January “There will be an acute shortage of water in many parts of the country,” she said.

She added that the changing weather patterns caused by the worsening impacts of climate change are responsible for dry spells and the increase of temperature in most parts of the country.

Activists say that over 60% of the water produced by the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (DAWASA) is going unaccounted due to leakages caused by worn-out infrastructure and illegal connections.

The residents of Temeke district in southern Dar es Salam are particularly severely hit.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, residents said they get water for a few hours only after 48 hours.

“The dry season is getting longer, harsher and more intense, worse still rainfall patterns are becoming harder to predict,” said Swahele Kweka, a resident.

Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa this week issued an ultimatum to gardeners not to use river water for watering gardens.

Businessmen who are engaged in freezing ice blocks for preserving fresh fish are running helter-skelter to find water.

“We don’t get water when we need it. It affects our business” said Prosper Kimweri, a businessman.

Hamisi Kibari, a vegetable vendor at the Jangwani wetland in Dar es Salaam, said water shortage has affected his garden. “We normally draw water from ponds, but when they have dried out, we were depending on the piped water. But it is no more available,” he told the Anadolu Agency.

Several hotels in Dar es Salaam have also instructed their guests to use water economically to cope with the shortage.

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