Sewage flows after storm expose flaws

via Sewage flows after storm expose flaws – DailyNews Live 11 JANUARY 2015

CHITUNGWIZA – The water flowing into people’s homes here is a greenish-gray soup of untreated human waste, a sign of an environmental and public health disaster that officials say will be one of the most enduring and expensive effects of the recent rains.

In the month since the storm, millions of gallons of raw and partly raw sewage have flowed into waterways in the local residential areas, exposing flaws in the city’s overburdened wastewater infrastructure that could take several years and millions of dollars to fix.

As warned by the Daily News on Sunday before the rains, residents’ untenable situation arises from a concoction of factors: houses built illegally on storm water drains, aided by corrupt civic leaders who cut corners, and are now at the mercy of the brute force of nature.

Built on the downstream side of  Harare, incessant rains last weekend flooded houses in low lying areas with sewage, making them  temporarily unhabitable and bringing  another  nightmarish new year in St Mary’s,  particularly Manyame and Paradise Park areas.

Residents in the affected areas are now spending sleepless nights, with most of them now used to being woken up by rain water mixed with sewage flooding into their bedrooms each time heavy rains pound the town’s suburbs, mostly at night.

Fears of yet another cholera and typhoid outbreak are now rife as the running water from the rains is mixed with raw sewer from burst pipes, raising the spectre of the spread of waterborne diseases.

According to the latest statistics from the ministry of Health and Child Care,  Chitungwiza recorded the highest number of waterborne diseases and typhoid-related deaths last year.

Property worth thousands of dollars including beds, wardrobes, electrical gadgets was damaged while some residents said they lost important documents such as birth certificates and passports which were also damaged by the recent rains. Asked why council was taking long to solve the flooding problem,  mayor  Phillip Mutoti said: “We are working flat out to arrest the problem but some of the issues involved were caused by previous administrations and these cannot be shied away from but need a permanent solution which might entail making decisions which might currently look unpalatable to some residents but are in their interests in the long term.”

Pressed further to elaborate what the cash-strapped council wanted to do to solve the problem, the mayor said: “You saw it for yourself, this is a complex issue and we need to put our heads together with residents to come up with an amicable solution.

“While it may be true that in some instances the drains are being blocked by sand and garbage, some houses are blocking the drainage system due to where they are built. This is not helping matters at all.

“The owners  might chose to stay there  but for how long can they live under such  inhumane conditions?

A win-win solution is required  on this one.”

Shadreck  Mapuranga,  ward  4 councillor said, “The problem  in my ward has been in existence for years  but this time it’s worse and needs our urgent attention.”

He was referring to Paradise Park in St Mary’s, one of the heavily affected residential areas.

The Daily News on Sunday spoke to affected  residents who gave a  sordid tale of their plight during a two-day assessment tour  by mayor Mutoti, Member of  Parliament for St Marys Unganayi  Dickson Tarusenga and councillors Innocent Mapuranga and Tendai Simon.

Edward Milanzi, 41, who resides in Paradise area, said at one time, he had to take turns with his wife carrying their baby on the back  for most of the night, after their house was flooded with water.

Affected residents blamed council for the poor drainage system in their areas while a council official who declined to be named said some houses had been built illegally, blocking and disrupting the drainage systems.

Meanwhile, tempers have flared in Manyame where a resident has barricaded  a road  with sand bags to avoid water flowing into his household, creating a “dam” that is affecting neighbours.

All residents interviewed had no kind words for the “residents’ associations” that are sprouting in the town, accusing them of concentrating on workshops and being visible only in the media to impress donors, but neglecting residents  in their hour of need.

Chitungwiza Residents Association, Chitungwiza Residents Trust and the Chitungwiza Progressive Residents are the main residents’  associations in the town.