World Water Day is held on 22nd March every year. We commemorate this day amid unending water and sanitation challenges which have contributed to the perpetual water borne disease outbreaks and gender-based violence in our communities.
This calls for urgent action among institutions and residents towards “accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis” which is the UN theme for the 2023 World Water Day.
Water and sanitation remain an unfulfilled electoral promise for the past decade among communities in Harare even though political parties in their manifestos have indicated that it’s their priority.
To that end, we are concerned that our municipalities and elected officials are satisfied when residents of Harare access water for domestic purposes through communal boreholes, and we reiterate that these are piecemeal arrangements meant to alleviate water problems are not permanent solutions to the water crisis.
The only ideal situation in an urban area is when municipal piped water is accessed in every household through the tap.
We bemoan the proliferation use of pit latrines and septic tanks in high density areas, and an increase in unattended sewerage bursts and discharge of raw sewerage in the catchment of Lake Chivero which has seriously compromised the quality and quantity of water for both municipal water supplies and borehole water.
The above-mentioned issues have immensely contributed to scarcity of potable sources of drinking water and poor sanitation in areas like Southlea Park, Glen View, Mabvuku/ Tafara, Budiriro, Mbare among other new settlements which have resulted in a host of potentially fatal health problems such as typhoid, cholera, and other diarrhoeal diseases.
These current water woes in Harare have robbed residents of their right to safe, clean and portable water which is provided for in Section 77 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 20 of 2013.
We further warn of an impending disaster if no action is taken in addressing the water and sanitation situation in Mbare and Matapi Flats which has seen residents cleaning the toilets on their own even though they are municipal workers employed to clean the communal toilets and bathrooms.
The culture and perception among our residents that promotes the idea that elected leaders are “chefs” is self-defeating and weakens accountability, and residents must change this culture by demanding accountability on elected officials in the provision of water and sanitation services.
We call for accelerated change in our local governance system through full implementation of devolution as provided in Chapter 14 of the constitution as this enhances transparency and accountability in the water sector.
Centralisation breeds corruption and cripples accountability mechanisms.
On the other hand, urgent change is required through the alignment of water and local government laws with the constitution, and this remains a key priority for both central government and local authority as it strengthens institutions that provide water and sanitation to the residents.
The current water production in the city (Harare) hovering around 350-380 megaliters per day against a demand of 1200 megaliters clearly indicates our failure as a city to contribute towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.
Addressing the water and sanitation crisis require a shift in the manner public resources aimed towards water and sanitation are managed, and the citizen must remain a key player in the equation of coming up solutions to the water crisis.
CHRA is committed to work with central Government, the City of Harare and other Civil Society Organisations in coming up with solutions to address the water and sanitation challenges in Harare. – Combined Harare Residents Association