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Cablegate: Zimbabwe's Growing Water Problems

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000786

SIPDIS

AID FOR DCHA/FFP LANDIS, CRUMBLY, MUTAMBA, PETERSEN
AID FOR DCHA/OFDA FOR PRATT, KHANDAGLE,
HALMRAST-SANCHEZ, GOTTLIEB
AFR/SA FOR LOKEN, COPSON, DOBBINS
STATE/AF FOR NEULING
BRUSSELS FOR PATRICIA LERNER
PRETORIA FOR, DISKIN, HALE, SINK, REYNOLDS
NAIROBI FOR SMITH, BROWN
GABORONE FOR CASHION, BROWN
ROME FOR FODAG FOR GAST


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL US ZI
SUBJECT: Zimbabwe's Growing Water Problems
Threaten Health; Country's Poor

-------
Summary
-------

1. Zimbabwe's urban infrastructure is raidly
deteriorating as a result of six consequtive
years of GOZ economic mismanagement. The
supply and distribution of potable water has
become especially problematic in several
cities. There are reports of diarrhea and
other stomach ailments increasing in affected
areas. Repairing the water system would be
expensive and would require international
assistance, unlikely given the GOZ's refusal
to undertake political and economic reforms.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's poor continue to bear
the brunt of their leaders' economic
mismanagement. End Summary.

---------------------
Urban Water Shortages
---------------------

2. In April and May 2005, Harare experienced
acute potable water shortages, with several
communities experiencing up to four weeks or
more with no safe drinking water. Areas most
affected are the eastern suburbs of Mabvuku,
Tafara, Greendale, Highlands and Chikurubi.
Mabvuku and Tafara have gone without 24-hour
reticulation for up to a year and Zimre Park,
for example, has gone without water for a
three-month stretch now. A recent
demonstration in Tafara over water issues
resulted in numerous arrests. Water shortages
have also been experienced in other cities and
municipalities.

--------------------------------
Poor Governance: the Main Factor
--------------------------------

3. Zimbabwe was once renowned for its
effective water management systems and urban
infrastructure. However, the combination of
age, lack of maintenance, high domestic
interest rates and growing urbanization have
placed all systems under tremendous strain. A
key factor contributing to the problem is the
lack of foreign currency to purchase imported
water purification chemicals and spare parts
for treatment plants and pumping stations.
High domestic interest rates have also
inhibited long-term borrowing needed to
maintain and expand the water infrastructure.

4. The central government has also imposed on
local authorities unrealistically low rates
for services, which is widely perceived as
political grandstanding and intended to hamper
the predominantly opposition-led local
authorities from being able to effectively
deliver municipal services. These imposed low
rates further prevent the local authorities
from recovering the cost of services or
generating funds for necessary maintenance and
expansion.

---------------
Health Concerns
---------------

5. Unsafe water is increasingly cited as the
reason for growing numbers of outbreaks of
diarrhea and other stomach ailments. The
Director of Health and Environment for Harare
stated that while cholera and dysentery have
not appeared in the city water system, scabies
(a parasitic skin disease), which can be
attributed to a lack of clean water, has
spread across the city. Likewise, water
experts at the University of Zimbabwe report
that there is no monitoring of heavy metals
and that parasites remain a problem in the
system.

-------
Comment
-------

6. Water shortages are not unusual in
Zimbabwe, typically occurring during the
hotter months of September to November.
However, the fact that these problems are
surfacing earlier than normal is particularly
troubling and bodes ill for the immediate
future. The cost of repairing the country's
infrastructure would run into millions of U.S.
dollars -- Harare alone needs a massive
upgrading of its entire water distribution
system. Without international assistance this
won't happen, and that in turn requires
political and economic reforms the government
is not prepared to undertake. In the
meantime, the poorest of Zimbabwe's poor will
continue to suffer from their government's
failings.

SCHULTZ

\ DELL

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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