Water treatment plant closure must be brief

HARARE – The reported temporary complete shutdown of Morton Jaffray Water Works — Harare and its neighbouring towns’ source of water — does not auger well for residents given the cholera and typhoid cases that have claimed a number of lives in recent days.

Harare also supplies water to Chitungwiza, Norton and Ruwa implying that the closure of the major treatment plant near Norton would also mean limited supplies to those local authorities.

The first two-day closure, which was supposed to begin yesterday, is one of several in the following weeks as the plant goes through maintenance.

The shutdown, it was reported, was meant to clear jams that had been occasioned by fishing nets on three valves at the intake tower and the mixing chamber at the plant.

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While this maintenance makes sense, it reflects shoddy planning on the part of the city fathers. Residents need water the most given the series of outbreaks of the highly contagious cholera and typhoid in Chegutu and Mbare respectively in the past few weeks.

Harare should be proactive, working on alternative water supply methods before announcing shutdowns. Manifesting here is a serious deficiency that afflicts not only Harare but also other urban local authorities. It is hoped this maintenance will not last forever.

One needs to only go back to 2008, when an estimated 4 000 people died of cholera because of insanitary conditions. Incidentally this was at a time the country was battling its highest inflation ever.

This 2008 calamity served to underline how access to clean water and shelter and basic healthcare must be ahead of any community’s priorities.

Those who fish in Lake Chivero — and hopefully these are not poachers — which is Harare’s major water source must also be educated on the extra costs they are causing on city’s water supply budget.

Harare is owed large sums of money by government entities as well as other local authorities and has been struggling to guarantee an uninterrupted supply of potable water to its residents, a situation that has to be worked on urgently.

The combination of the scarcity of water and uncollected garbage, a usual sight in residential areas, exposes residents to diseases like cholera and typhoid.

Government must lead responsive coordinated multi-sectoral approaches to the challenges for long-term sustainable solutions.

Uninterrupted supply of water, the cleanliness of crowded environments and an improvement on waste disposal strategies must be central in urban operational modalities.

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