By NQOBANI NDLOVU
BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) requires about half a billion United States dollars to rehabilitate, upgrade or replace the city’s ageing water reticulation infrastructure and do away with frequent pipe bursts.
Council in 2016 launched the Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project (BWSSIP) to rehabilitate and upgrade water production treatment facilities, water distribution, sewer drainage networks and wastewater treatment disposal facilities in the city.
The project, bankrolled by the African Development Bank to rehabilitate the aged infrastructure, was expected to be completed by December 2020. The project remains incomplete owing to Covid-19-induced disruptions while sewer pipe bursts have become common as the city’s infrastructure is aged and beyond repair.
In 2020, a killer diarrhoea outbreak that claimed 13 lives and infected several thousands of others was also blamed on contamination of potable water due to pipe bursts, resulting in mud and sewer seepage on the water reticulation infrastructure.
In an update of the water reticulation upgrade infrastructure, the local authority said the exercise was slowed down by under-funding while revealing that as much as US$500 million was required over a 20-year period.
“The city’s infrastructure is old and aged. In recent years, the City of Bulawayo has been rehabilitating infrastructure on an as-and-when basis subject to availability of funds. However, economic challenges have affected the planned maintenance programme,” the council said in response to the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights, a human rights group, following an inquiry into the matter.
“It should also be noted that the water and wastewater master plan done in the year 2012 highlighted that the City of Bulawayo required a replacement of 46.2km of existing reticulation mains ranging from 50mm to 300mm nominal diameter pipes due to frequent bursts, and collapse of infrastructure.
“A total budget of US$522 million is required over a 20-year period. All the estimated costs were based on the 2012 rates and were inclusive of construction costs, engineering fees and disbursements, with a 15% contingency allowance.”
Bulawayo, like many other urban centres in Zimbabwe, has been affected by years of under-investment in its water and sewerage infrastructure maintenance, increasing the frequency of exposure to contamination of potable water. The city also continues to lose water due to pipe bursts and leaks owing to ageing reticulation infrastructure, with an average of nearly 200 water faults being received per day, council reports show.
Since the BWSSIP’s inception, four pumps have been replaced and 141 km of the network in Magwegwe and Criterion reservoir areas rehabilitated. Similarly, water mains have been upgraded, renewed and in some cases replaced
The US$37 million project is expected to advance municipal water supply and sewerage services through the rehabilitation and enhancement of the water supply system, strengthening institutional aspects, enhancing service delivery efficiency and improving environmental sanitation.