Sustainable water management critical to development

In our policy blueprint, HOPE, we recognise sustainable water management as one of the key economic enablers.

water-zimbabweThere is no doubt that water plays a vital role in the social and economic development of any society. Increasing demand and competition for water and increasing scarcity due to climatic changes are some serious challenges that we must address as a country if we are to create sustainable development. It is clear to us that ZANU (PF) has failed to address these critical issues with the urgency they deserve. As a result Zimbabwe is currently facing widespread poverty and hunger.

The integrated management of water and land resources now recognizes that the economic value of water, equitable allocation of water, and sustainable utilization of the resource are critical issues that need urgent attention by any government.

As PDP we believe that effective management of water resources demands a holistic approach. It must link social and economic development processes with the protection of natural ecosystems. We will therefore promote a shift in water resource management from a supply to a demand-oriented focus. This will include the need to reduce the size and costs of government, decentralizing management authority, encouraging stakeholder participation in resource management and conservation, cost recovery, and promoting greater social equity in access to water.

In our view, water development and management should be based on a participatory approach involving users, planners, and policy-makers at all levels. Women must also play a central role in providing, managing and safeguarding water, especially in rural areas where 70% of our population resides.

We have to promote  equitable access to water for all citizens because the right to water is guaranteed by our constitution which states that every person has the right to safe potable water and the State must take reasonable legislative and other measures within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve progressive realization of this right.

Critical issues which need our attention include first, the impact of widespread informal mining, industry, the haphazard occupation of large scale agriculture land, and somewhat lax and unenforced pollution laws, which have resulted in catastrophic environmental degradation yet there seems no urgency on the part of the ZANU (PF) led government to deal with it decisively.

Second it is fact that Zimbabwe has one of the highest fresh water to land ratios in Africa. Unfortunately the ZANU (PF) instigated fast track land reform project of 2000 has decimated agriculture production and water infrastructure and as a result, Zimbabwe’s dams are in dire need of rehabilitation. However, we will have to address land tenure issues first as a matter of urgency so that we can rehabilitate our agricultural water resources.

The massive urban migration due to the collapse of the agricultural sector since 2000 has resulted in a population explosion in the urban areas particularly Harare. This has resulted in high demand and inadequate infrastructure. Our approach must therefore focus on implementing effective water management in both urban and rural sectors.

With regard to urban water management, we have to rehabilitate and develop our infrastructure and reduce overcrowding. Most of the water challenges which have been faced in urban areas are a consequence of mismanagement and reluctance by the Ministry of Local Governance to let the city council independently run water supply and sewer reticulation management.

The decentralization of local authorities with minimum government interference will therefore be critical. As PDP we will ensure that local authorities have autonomy in making independent decisions and policies towards addressing this water crisis including the development of the necessary infrastructure.

With regard to rural water management, the livelihoods of people in rural areas remain closely linked to availability, accessibility and management of natural resources such as water for both subsistence and income generation.

Unfortunately rural Zimbabweans still predominantly rely on wells and boreholes that tap into Zimbabwe’s groundwater supply. To this date our rural communities remain exposed to lack of safe drinking water that is easily accessible while sanitation systems are non-existent.

According to UNICEF (2012) over 60% of the rural water supply infrastructure in Zimbabwe is in a state of disrepair, and as a result, many boreholes and wells contain non potable water and are in need of decontamination.

As PDP we intend to address this through several initiatives which include; the improvement water supply access through drill, repair and/or the rehabilitation of boreholes including the encouragement of individually owned deep wells, implementing awareness programs for rural communities on issues that relate to treatment of water fetched from unprotected sources, the provision of materials for the construction of sanitary facilities and the improvement of sanitation through the conducting of participatory health and hygiene education workshops to change hygiene behaviours.

According to the African Development Bank report of 2010, Zimbabwe will need an estimated $3,7bn for water supply and sanitation developments.

As PDP we believe that it is indeed possible to meet the constitutional rights to potable water for every citizen and all we need is a government that recognises this responsibility and empowers our communities and local authorities to participate and be part of the solution. We will therefore implement water reforms which will include the promotion of more efficient and sustainable utilization of water through stakeholder involvement.

We will also reduce political interference, improve planning capabilities, deal with mismanagement and corruption of city and rural district councils, improve the management and allocation financial resources and ensure we have the necessary skills to develop and maintain water infrastructure both in urban and rural sectors.

Zimbabwe’s Water Act (1976) was amended several times, and subsequently replaced with the Water Act (1998) which conforms to global trends in addressing pressing national issues. The only thing missing has been effective implementation and management. PDP intends to do just that.

Another Zimbabwe is possible!

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