THE capital city has been facing a number of challenges, which have seen service delivery fall to worrying levels. Our reporter Harmony Agere engaged Harare City Council Town Clerk Engineer Hosiah Chisango in a wide ranging interview. We publish the question and answer.
Q: What is the current status of the water situation in the City?
A: The capital city has experienced perennial water shortages for more than a decade owing to the population that has overgrown the water provision facilities.
This is mainly a result of the deteriorating water services infrastructure, which include treatment facilities, pumping plants and the distribution systems.
Further to this, there has been a gradual deterioration of the raw water quality, which then demands more water treatment stages and chemicals.
The current situation has been made worse by the poor rainfall season experienced in the region. This has resulted in our two upstream dams of Harava and Seke drying up and production from Prince Edward Water Works has been reduced from seven days to two.
The water supply is, therefore, so depressed that the western high-density areas that were receiving near normal supplies, are now having to experience a supply interruption of 48 hours.
Harare is carrying out some works at Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant to optimise production, but the current rationing will continue until the next rains.
There are also issues to do with water treatment chemicals.
We have since managed to stabilise the availability of most of the critical chemicals except chlorine gas where the supplier seems to be not palatable to our payment terms and is pushing for upfront payments.
This has resulted in us getting trickles of the product and it impacts on our output.
The total water solution lies in investing in the rehabilitation of the current infrastructure to optimise production and distribution as well as augmenting the current facilities by constructing new dams, treatment works and conveyancing facilities.
The Government is currently seized with this matter since failure to implement these projects will see the Harare Metropolitan Province and other surrounding authorities, which feed off our systems, plunging further into the crises and leaving residents exposed to diseases.
Q: Is there enough water in the City’s reservoirs to take it through to the next rainfall season?
A: Yes, our two main reservoirs, Lake Chivero and Manyame Dam can take us up to April 2020. We reduced the abstraction rate so that we can stretch to September or October 2020.
The challenge is also on the siltation that has happened to the dams due to upstream agricultural activities.
This has reduced the holding capacities of the reservoirs.
Q: What is the city’s monthly budget for water treatment chemicals?
A: Our budget for treating the normal 550 to 600 mega litres per day ranges between US$2,8 million and US$3 million per month depending on the season.
We use more during the hot season as we have to deal with algae blooms.
We are currently using between US$2,3 and US$2,5 million for the current production levels of around 300 mega litres per day.
We have called for water treatment experts, through a tender, to come and assess our water quality, treatment processes, recommend effective and cost competitive processes as well as chemicals for our water treatment.
It is evident that the water treatment processes, as designed, can no longer cope with the quality of the raw water, hence the need to continuously increase dosages and chemicals. This is no longer sustainable for Harare. The City, therefore, needs US$3 million, which can be significantly reduced by proper catchment management.
Q: You have been accused of failing to act on pollution in Lake Chivero, has there been any remedial action?
A: Harare and all its sister local authorities sit on the catchment of the water source.
All activities in these local authorities; be they domestic, industrial and agricultural, produce waste that is washed into the river sources.
Due to inadequate investment in the sewerage infrastructure in the local authorities, there is pollution of the water sources. As Harare, we have invested in the rehabilitation of the sewage collection systems with most of our stream crossings which were corroded.
This work is continuing across the city with the City’s resources complemented by grants and donor funds from development partners. The City has also invested in the rehabilitation of Sewage treatment works with 60 percent of Firle Sewage Works now restored.
Harare City Council will be moving to control urban agriculture because the fertilisers and pesticides used in agriculture are eventually leached to the dams and these aid the growth of water weeds and algae leading to continued pollution of the water sources.
Remedial plans are in place and being implemented. A complete overhaul of the sewerage infrastructure, regulation of waste disposal from industries and regulation of urban agriculture will see the renewal of our current water sources and reduction of water treatment expenditure as well as guaranteed potable water quality.
Q: Provision of houses and residential stands has been a problem for Harare for a while, how is the council addressing this issue?
A: Housing provision is one of the main mandates of any local authority.
Harare has struggled with housing provision with stands being churned out not able to make a significant dent on the housing waiting list.
However, the city allocated land to many housing cooperatives and land developers. This was expected to go a long way in improving housing delivery in the capital city. Successes have been few in these models and the City has since discontinued them and started Housing Pay Schemes.
The current housing waiting list stands at 151 000. The housing waiting list is, however, not automated or linked to the property database.
We will be able to refresh the waiting list once it is fully automated and linked to the property database as I suspect that we have many people on both lists.
Q: It looks like the battle against litter in the city has been lost, are we not seeing a give-in situation to dirt by council?
A: This is a must-win battle if we are to be proud of our environment.
Thanks to the declaration of the Clean-up campaigns by His Excellency the President, we are witnessing massive attitude improvements towards littering.
Our successes in garbage collection have been few, but we have since introduced a shift system for collections and this has improved adherence to the weekly collections.
We regularly conduct exercises in residential areas to remove illegal dumps.
We have put up a strategy that involves other partners to ensure that our areas will be free of dumps come the rainy season.
The city, in partnership with Econet, has constructed a waste separating facility at Budiriro and more are planned.
This is to encourage recycling so that we reduce the garbage that is transported to Pomona.
The City is currently finalising tenders for the waste to energy plant at Pomona.
Our preference is a partner who can implement the project on a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) model as the City is not able to fund the project at this time due to competing funding needs.
Q: We understand the city is failing to take delivery of refuse trucks purchased almost a year ago, what is really going on?
A: The correct position is that the city awarded a tender for the delivery of 30 refuse compactors. The City paid the local funding as per the contract.
The supplier then managed to get foreign currency for 15 refuse compactors which have since been delivered.
The other 15 are still awaiting allocation of foreign currency to the supplier.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe allocated the foreign currency that brought the 15 compactors and other equipment before the February Monetary Policy.
The city, therefore, had mobilised enough funds including duty to procure the equipment, but the issues of foreign currency has delayed delivery of the equipment.
Q: Illegal vendors continue with their operations, can we say the city fathers have failed in this regard?
A: The city has not failed in this battle. It is very much work in progress. We have identified and designated vending sites and these have been oversubscribed. We, however, need to mobilise resources to construct appropriate infrastructure at the sites to make them more attractive.
We are nearly satisfied with the situation in the Central Business District where most of the vendors have left and businesses have resumed paying licences to Council. We will continue to up our enforcement in and around the city until we achieve full compliance.
Q: Allegations against your council are that it is harbouring some illegal vending cartels, what is your take on this.
A: There are suspicions and allegations. The city, therefore, invoked Section 100 of the Urban Councils Act Chapter 29:15 and commissioned an inquiry into the goings on in the markets, land sales and leases.
This was also motivated by the decreasing revenues in these streams at a time vending and leases had increased.
Let me stress here that it is not my intention or that of council to victimise anyone. The inquiry will enable council to improve systems and also crowd out the alleged cartels in the best interest of council and its residents.
Their naming, if they are there, will be done at the end of the inquiries.
Q: Harare City Council has not been paying its employees, what remedial action has the local authority instituted to ensure workers are paid?
A: Yes, it is true that we owe our employees currently two months’ salary arrears.
This was due to the current economic environment where our expenditure for service delivery inputs, such as water treatment chemicals and fuels were being accessed at the interbank rate while the income was locked at the 1:1 rate.
We have, however, put in place robust strategies to increase revenues from other streams and have agreed with the employees on the plan to clear the arrears.
Due to our excellent labour/employee relations, we have maintained excellent harmony at all our workplaces even under these harsh socio-economic conditions.
I wish to applaud our unions and all employees for giving us this space to work on clearing their arrears.
Q: Given the current severe electricity shortages in the country, does Harare City Council harbour any plans to join in the was current wave to invest in solar energy generation?
A: No, not in the immediate future. Our immediate plans are to source alternative power for our premises which include our district offices, clinics and the smaller water and sewerage facilities. The medium-term plans include the waste to energy plants from both solid and liquid waste.