If government does not prioritise the provision of foreign currency to local authorities for the procurement of water treatment chemicals, many councils will be forced to stop pumping water, Urban Councils Association (Ucaz) president Josiah Makombe said.
In an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Makombe said many councils had now run out of water treatment chemicals and this was now posing a health threat to citizens.
Makombe’s statement comes as Bulawayo and Harare last week ran out of water treatment chemicals and had to increase their water rationing to allow residents access to water twice a week.
“This is a very worrisome issue and if not solved people will definitely get sick from typhoid, cholera and other waterborne diseases. We have tried to engage government on the matter but nothing seems to be working. They seem to forget that we are the people’s first port-of-call due to our service delivery mandate,” Makombe said.
“The problem is that fuel has been given priority over everything else. However, one cannot drive with a clear conscience when they do not have access to clean water or when sewer is flowing through the streets.
“Local authorities need foreign currency every week for chemicals. If the current problem persists, council will have no other option but to stop pumping water because people cannot drink raw untreated water.”
He emphasised that as councils foreign currency availability is very scarce and comes after long intervals.
“We may get access to the foreign currency here and there but that is not enough for the services that we provide. We cannot go to the black market and buy foreign currency. Also because we are an extension of government we cannot charge our customers in foreign currency. We get our revenue in bond and RTGS dollars which however cannot buy the chemicals,” the Gweru mayor said.
Makombe said Ucaz will be meeting with the minister of Local Government July Moyo to discuss these and other issues that are making service delivery a struggle.
Latest reports from Bulawayo’s council minutes show that the city is running critically low on ammonia with stocks of less than one month.
“Aluminium sulphate, HTH stocks are enough for over two months. Chlorine is at critical one week supply,” read part of the minutes.
In Harare, town clerk Hosiah Chisango confirmed that Harare City Council had run out of liquid and granular aluminium, lime and HTH with only 25 cubic of aluminium sulphate in stock.
While all chemicals are important in the purification process, aluminium sulphate should not run out as it is a critical component in ensuring optimum microbiological quality of water as it kills bacteria and viruses.