Where there was almost 99% coverage and access to water in the Harare metropolitan area, this has dropped with frequent water cuts and rationing. Where once Harare prided itself of being the Sunshine City, it now faces unsightly scenes of garbage and illegal dumping. Where once there was no sewage seen in the city, sewage overflows are now a common phenomena plaguing city streets.
Apart from the bare fact that water supply is far short of demand, there is noticeable wastage of the little available water by those who have regular supply, this calls for collective action by both the water utility and those who receive service from it so that together they develop home-grown solutions to conserve water and increase access levels.
Failure by the City Council to regularly collect garbage due to inadequate resources and ever increasing and indiscriminate dumping of waste compounded by the growing number of informal traders everywhere calls for new strategies in waste management and a mind shift in all residents who have become used to carelessly throwing litter wherever they so wish without regard to its impact on health and the environment.
The current trend, if unchecked, can easily lead to an unmanageable situation even if the city were to be adequately equipped to deal with the garbage; behaviour change is a fundamental facet in a sustained solid waste management regime.
In the current scenario three options present themselves:
Maintain the current status quo with increasing number of people with no access to water, thereby violating rights to water and probably impacting on the poor. Throwing garbage/littering everywhere throughout the city with solids ending up in dump sites, in our fresh-water bodies and damaging sewer systems then hoping against hope that these problems will one day solve themselves.
Start thinking of options for tackling the challenges within the available means and constraints with the participation of all stakeholders being key (residents, businesses, government, etc).
Build new infrastructure requiring resources in excess of US$1 billion and knowing that the fiscus cannot presently allocate such resources.
Recent developments encouragingly show that a relatively swift recovery may be technically possible, given a favourable political environment and prioritisation of the sector.
In February 2012, the city of Harare’s water division hosted a water summit in which Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, supported by high level delegation of decision makers in the form of ministers of local government, rural and urban development, environment and natural resources management, health and child welfare, water resources development and management and finance, support agencies and other stakeholders.
The recommendation that came out of this summit was that there was need to clean up the city through water conservation and zero litter campaign.
In short, a bid to start to restore national pride and dignity. There is need to move away from a national branding of cholera-ridden, water shortages, collapsed service delivery system and all the lot that comes with negative national image to put back Zimbabwe as a whole on the road to WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) recovery and restored national standards. Let us join hands in supporting this noble and much needed intervention.
Together we can.