Water laws too weak: experts

Experts note that water management issues affecting southern Africa include poverty, poor harvesting measures, industrialisation, waste management crises, biodiversity management gaps and weak legislative frameworks.

“National water legislation in most countries in the region is inadequate and weakly enforced and is not consistent with widely accepted international water principles,” said a water expert from the University of Zimbabwe at a recent climate change symposium.

“People are consuming more renewable resources such as forests, placing heavy demand on water and the environment,” said Joseph Madzvamuse, Projects Officer for ZERO, a regional non-governmental organization, in an interview. According to a recent United Nations Environment Programme study, water demand in the SADC region is projected to rise by at least three percent annually by 2020, in tandem with population growth.

“With recurring droughts and chronic water shortages in many areas, most countries and people already pay an increasingly high price for water and for lack of it. The poor, especially women and children, usually pay the highest price in cash terms to buy small amounts of water,” says the study.

Researchers at the regional Research Project on Water Demand Management based in South Africa note that given that water supply is likely to diminish and the building of dams for most countries is now becoming an expensive option, there is need to explore different water management strategies.

Water shortages can generate food crises as irrigated crops constitute 40 percent of the world’s agricultural production.

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