The pollution in Lake Chivero has reached alarming levels, an issue that needs to be dealt with swiftly and urgently as the lake is Harare’s main water source.
The situation is not being made easier by the El-Nino effect that has greatly affected the country, leading to a rapid decline in water levels in major water suppliers of the country.
Currently, the country’s dams are on average 51 percent full at a time when dams should be spilling.
Water supply in Harare had been reduced by 18 percent, bringing it down to 450 million litres per day when the city needs about 800 million litres per day.
According to Environmental Management Agency (EMA) spokesperson, Mr Steady Kangata, the situation at the lake is deplorable. He said the pollution is a result of the activities in urban settlements.
“Urban settlements’ pollution such as sewer bursts is affecting our water bodies,” said Mr Kangata.
Lake Chivero is a reservoir that gets water from the surrounding catchments that feeds into it.
The major settlements that have contributed to the pollution include Chitungwiza, Ruwa and Epworth.
Lake Chivero is downstream of the capital, while Chitungwiza is within the Upper Manyame Sub-Catchment Area such that most sewers discharge from Harare and Chitungwiza end up in the water sources.
These areas are densely populated and are prone to sewer bursts.
However, there are a number of other reasons that have led to the pollution of Harare’s water.
“Stream bank cultivation, effluent from industries and sewer bursts, among others are polluting the lake”, said Mr Kangata.
There is urgent need to intervene so as to curb the pollution.
Everyone has the constitutional right to access clean and safe water.
The Harare City Council’s acting communications manager, Mr Michal Chideme said the council is currently working on improving water treatment.
“The rehabilitation of Crowbrough and Firle sewage treatment plants is almost complete . . . the major polluters have been fixed,” said Mr Chideme.
The city council is working with Tongji University and the University of Zimbabwe to get more sustainable treatment chemicals. In addition to that, the city council says it has procured pipes to fix all the corroded pipes along river crossings.
According to Mr Kangata, local authorities need to have fully functional water processing systems that will help in processing the water. He also highlighted that there is need for by-laws that regulates industries and prohibit them from discharging harmful substances into water sources.
Land for agricultural purposes must be clearly demarcated in order to avoid stream bank cultivation as the practice contaminates water bodies. Awareness campaigns will also come in handy.
Despite the water shortages, the city is losing a lot of water through pipe bursts that are littered across the city.
“The city is prioritizing the Kunzwi and Musami dams so as to provide alternative sources of water for Harare citizens” said Mr Chideme.
Citizens are encouraged to save the little water that is available.
“There is need for consumers’ behavioral change. They should use water conservation methods,” Mr Chideme stressed.