Water infrastructure vandalism worries President
Nqobile Bhebhe/Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporters
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has expressed serious concern over rampant vandalism of key infrastructure at Epping Forest and Rochester Aquifer in Nyamandlovu, a development which continues to negatively affect water supply in Bulawayo.
Due to periodic cable theft, the city’s water pumping capacity has drastically gone down to about 3 megalitres per day from the targeted 20ML per day.
This has also affected Bulawayo’s economic growth as industry heavily relies on water for production. Over 60 000 Bulawayo residents, including farmers, have been affected by theft and vandalism of electricity infrastructure at Epping Forest and Rochester Aquifer in Nyamandlovu resulting in the city reducing pumping capacity.
Government, through the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), rehabilitated boreholes at Epping Forest and Rochester to improve Bulawayo’s water situation in 2020. The aquifer is meant to complement Bulawayo’s supply dams, whose water levels have remained low.
The Epping Forest boreholes were rehabilitated at a time when Bulawayo was experiencing its worst water crisis in the city’s modern history. The water crisis resulted in the death of 14 residents in Luveve suburb due to diarrhoea-related illnesses.
Vandalism of the electricity infrastructure has been described as a national security threat with urgent interventions being made.
Last week a ministerial delegation comprising Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Settlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka, Energy and Power Development Minister Zhemu Soda, Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Deputy Minister Ruth Maboyi and Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube toured the affected areas to assess the damage on the infrastructure.
In an interview on the sidelines of a National Development Strategy One (NDS1) workshop in Bulawayo yesterday, Minister Ncube, said the President is concerned over the theft of cables and vandalism of infrastructure at Epping Forest and Rochester Aquifer.
The site was commissioned by President Mnangagwa in February last year after Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) completed drilling of 20 boreholes.
“Last week we visited Epping Forest and what we saw was disheartening. Transformers are vandalised at an alarming rate. President Mnangagwa is worried about the rampant vandalism of energy infrastructure at Epping Forest in Nyamandlovu,” said Minister Ncube.
“We have set up committees to look into the matter. We are also engaging residents on how to solve this issue of vandalism.”
Minister Ncube the spate of vandalism also affects economic growth of the city, the region and the country as a whole.
She also implored residents to tap into their extensive networks to lure investors.
“As residents, I make an appeal to individually look for investors and install solar farms in Nyamandlovu to counter load shedding and vandalism. Let’s come up with solutions to rectify the challenges we are facing,” said Minister Ncube.
“It’s beyond an individual to solve this issue hence the call for all residents to be involved. You have strong networks that can be used to assist the city. We need solar farms so that when there is no electricity we will automatically switch to solar.”
While Government’s intervention was effective as the city received up to 20ML from Nyamandlovu projects, vandals are reversing the gains that the city was enjoying
In August, Zinwa engaged four security guards to man the Epping Forest pump site 24 hours following a string of thefts targeting transformers and electricity copper cables.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has also temporarily suspended its 72-hour water shedding schedule due to water supply interruptions emanating from persistent power outages that have seen council failing to pump enough water from its supply dams into reservoirs.
Only the industrial site and the city’s central business district has been spared from the power cuts.
Prior to the latest development, BCC has been implementing a weekly 72-hour water shedding programme to preserve water.
Zimbabwe is presently facing acute power shortages which have seen consumers going for long hours, outside the normal load-shedding periods, without electricity.
The situation, caused initially by frequent breakdowns at Hwange Thermal Station, has been compounded by the water shortages in Lake Kariba resulting in a cut back at Kariba South Power Station, which provides the bulk of Zimbabwe’s electricity supplies.
The Zambezi River Authority which runs the Kariba Dam, wrote to the Zimbabwe Power Company last week directing it to stop generating electricity until at least January, when water levels are expected to have picked up.
This was modified last week to allow Zesa to generate 300MW, a major help but still leaving Zimbabwe short and getting half what it was looking at from Kariba.
Ramping up generation at thermal power stations and increasing power imports are among the measures pushed by Government after Kariba South Power Station halved generation.
The disruption in water supply has been necessitated by prolonged hours of electricity shedding.
In a statement, the town clerk Mr Christopher Dube said the city’s water situation will be restored to normalcy once the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) resolves the electricity challenge.
“The City of Bulawayo would like to advise members of the public of water supply interruption and suspension of the 72-hour shedding programme to all areas in the city except industry and the central business district,” he said.
“This is a result of load shedding at Ncema, Inyankuni and Fernhill. This has resulted in lack of treatment and pumping of water into the city.”
Mr Dube said once ZETDC restores power to the affected plants and stations, raw water abstraction at Inyankuni, water treatment at Ncema and pumping at both Ncema and Fernhill will resume.
He said they were forced to suspend water provision to the rest of the city to prevent its system from collapsing.
“To protect the supply and distribution reservoirs from collapsing, the City of Bulawayo will temporarily suspend the current 72-hour shedding programme and cut off supply to the mentioned areas until power is restored to the affected treatment plants and pump stations,” said Mr Dube.
Government has already taken various measures to address the country’s power deficit.