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Growth strains water system

Staff Writers.

HARARE’S sewer and water reticulation system capacity is not able to carry new housing developments as it is already stretched to the limit, deposed opposition Movem

ent for Democratic Change Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri has said.

Mudzuri, a civil engineer by profession and pushed out of Town House last year in a bid by government to assert control over politics in the capital, this week pointed out that frequent water shortages in Harare clearly indicated the extent of pressure on the current infrastructure.

He charged that these residential areas are often unplanned.

“Population growth and the continued parcelling out of land in exchange for political mileage will increase pressure on the already dilapidated systems,” Mudzuri told businessdigest in Harare on Wednesday.

According to him, water treatment plants — just outside Harare and to the west — had outlived projected “safe water” and recycling production capacity since comprehensive studies were carried out seven years ago.

The present demand, measured by the peak October to November period in any hot year, shows that capacity was exceeded by 2001 and Harare is now three years outside demand period in terms of those projections.

“The increased demand for water was caused by the government when it encouraged the sprouting up of settlements around the city on the pretext of providing accommodation to the people,” Mudzuri said. The Harare council, now under the caretaker eye of ruling Zanu PF symphathiser Sekesai Makwavarara and endless commissions, was frustrated in its attempts to rehabilitate the main Morton Jaffray water treatment works by government through continual denials of authority to borrow on the open market.

Mudzuri feels such an exercise would have improved capacity and solved the once-thriving city’s water problems — also affecting key industries and various social activities.

“We were also denied borrowing powers to upgrade the obsolete equipment… during my short tenure as mayor,” the 48-year old Mudzuri said.

With the government acquiring more land in the peri-urban zone for housing development and noting Mudzuri as well as other independent urban planners’ concerns, council spokesman Leslie Gwindi was, however, defiant, saying they had capacity to deal with any increases in pressure on the infrastructure.

“We have the capacity to take on board these new developments. Planning teams are already working with people on the farms,” he said.

Gwindi would not readily explain the Harare municipality working plan and how long it would take to implement.

Along with Ignatious Chombo’s Local Government, Public Works and National Housing ministry, Makwavarara’s financially-strained council has launched an ambitious plan to acquire about 40 farms in the Harare catchment area to develop a metropolitan structure catering for homeless urban dwellers and markedly reducing the swelling housing backlog estimated at one million.

Among those unserviced tracts of land are Chizororo, Eyrecourt and Stoneridge farms which the government has compulsorily acquired under a sweeping land ownership scheme also affecting agriculture.

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