Harare to get water and fibre-optics

Harare City Council has approved a $70m deal to overhaul the water distribution network and install fibre-optic broadband services, according to municipal meeting minutes.

The full council minutes of late last year indicate that the council authorised the town clerk, Tendai Mahachi, to ensure the deal went ahead with a South African company. The company in January last year, through an unsolicited bid, proposed to replace the water pipeline and install a broadband infrastructure.

Mahachi said discussions and feasibility studies had already been completed.

“It was proposed that, rather than council seek a loan of $100m to replace the 50-year-old pipe network, it made sense to allow a communications investor to completely overhaul the water network and introduce broadband services at their own cost,” he said.

“The installation of broadband communication through fibre-optics will be laid alongside the water pipes and the investor will benefit through reduced cost of civil works estimated at 80 per cent of the broadband installation,” added Mahachi.

He said 50 per cent of the $70m was a grant.

The city currently produces 540 megalitres at its two major waterworks, but 60 per cent of the treated water is lost through leaks in the aged distribution network.

Harare residents go for long periods without running water partly because of the old infrastructure, but also due to a critical shortage of water chemicals. Mahachi said the distribution network covered about 5,500km of pipes.

“Council will assume total ownership of the broadband infrastructure after 25 years, as the primary investor’s interest is to have broadband licensing to recoup their investment cost in pipe replacement. The lifespan of the broadband facility is 50 years,” he said.

Mahachi said he had requested the ministry of local government to seek the cabinet’s authority for the project and coordinate with other ministries to issue licences from the Post and Telecommunications Regulation Authority of Zimbabwe for the fibre project.

He said the project would transform Harare into a smart city through “seamless real-time connectivity” throughout the city’s various service centres while reducing operational costs.

“This (project) will introduce smart meters resulting in accurate billing and thereby motivate payment for services. The facility also has telemetry that shows traffic bottlenecks and traffic signals will be manipulated to allow a smooth flow of traffic, while water reservoirs and water plants will be operated from a central point, allowing rechanneling of water to the most needy areas,” he said.

A similar technology is currently being used by the Zimbabwe Power Company in managing power demand.

Meanwhile, the council and a Chinese firm, under the $144m loan facility from China, are currently upgrading Morton Jaffrey and Prince Edward water plants and two sewage plants at Firle and Crowborough.

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