In the face of climate change, eco-systems and natural resources crises, water scarcity and the arising demand for clean water are on the rise while water supplies face mounting pollution. Zimbabwe , being drought-prone, carries with it a series of challenges with water quality – often more correctly water safety – rising on the agendas of policy makers and water consumers.
PATRICK MUSIRA spok
e to Minister of Water Resources Development and Management Samuel Sipepa Nkomo. For his and government views and plans into water needs and resources and their impact on associated ecosystems.
Q 1. Water is key for intensifying agriculture output but it is little used in Zimbabwe . What are you bringing on the table in terms of approach?
Answer: Water resources are available to facilitate intensive agriculture. However the little use of developed water resources in Zimbabwe is mostly a combination of problems such as agricultural inputs (tillage, seed fertilizer etc.) availability and the power limitations making farmers unable to pump and use the water and the general viability of the crops grown. Therefore an integrated approach is required to address the various aspects concurrently to ensure success of the agricultural production interventions.
Q2. Damming of our river water and investing in low-cost irrigation schemes in rural areas. Any plans in that direction? (Please give examples of areas/provinces for planned/ongoing projects)
Currently the government is working in collaboration with SMIDSP (Small and Micro Irrigation Development Support Programme) to develop and rehabilitate 20 low cost irrigation schemes countrywide e.g. Makwe in Manicaland, River Range in Matabeleland South and Gondo in Masvingo. There are also nongovernmental organisations that are doing low cost irrigation schemes around the country these include CARE, PLAN International, Oxfam, and Catholic Relief Services. The government under PSIP projects is planning to develop low cost irrigation schemes such as the proposed Zambezi Basin Irrigation Project. There are also ongoing PSIP Projects in the country such as Chiduku – Tikwiri in Manicaland, Chitora in Mash East and Fuwe Panganayi in Masvingo.
Q3. What is percentage of arable land under irrigation?
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, there is a potential irrigable land of approximately 2 235 200 ha and of this 150 000ha is under irrigation. Of the irrigable land 50 000 ha is under sugar estates and the remaining 100 000 ha comprises of: A1 and A2 farming sectors, small holder and communal sectors, large private sectors and Arda estates.
Q4. Other players involved in your ministry’s policy direction?
My ministry’s approach is that water is everyone’s business and effective management requires the participation of all stakeholders. In pursuance of this tenet my Ministry is setting up a National Action Committee where Ministries of Environment, Transport, Agriculture, Health, Local Government and Urban Development and NGOs are involved. For the day to day management of water resources in the various catchment areas my ministry has set up Catchment and Subcatchment councils which are constituted from elected members drawn from the various water user sectors in the catchment areas.
Q5. Most dam construction is capital intensive. Any partner or funders?
Currently the Ministry has no partners but these are being sought to partner us in our water resources development drive. To facilitate this, the government is in the process of setting up a PPP framework, legislation and guidelines which will govern how partners can participate in our dam construction projects in the future.
Q6. You cannot discuss Zimbabwe water situation without touching the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project – it has been on the cards since the 1920s. What, in your opinion, has been the major obstacle in implementation? Are you bringing any fresh approach to the project?
Question 6 : While it is agreed that MZWP is the long – term solution to Bulawayo city’s water supply it is a big project and thus capital intensive. Funding is therefore the major constraint on the speedy implementation of the project. We have proposed to take a phased approach with the construction of Gwayi – Tshangani dam as the first step. Work on the dam has started however it is currently faced with funding challenges and is on suspension. Thereafter the pipeline connecting the dam to the city will be put in place followed by the link to the Zambezi River as the final stage.
Q7. Environmentalists often oppose damming schemes as posing “a threat to eco-systems”. What’s your ministry‘s view?
Damming does affect the natural ecosystems and the stored water floods the area where the reservoir is, however before we construct our dams we carry out Environmental Impact Assessments where all these threats are identified and minimized while the benefits are maximized to ensure the benefits out weigh the costs. Environment Management Plans are elaborated with measures to safeguard the environment and these are monitored throughout the project life cycle. Water is life and is a critical input for any economy. Without a stable supply throughout the year all other economic activities are not possible. Our rains are seasonal and water security can only be achieved through dam construction as it is the most effective intervention to harness and mobilize water resources for economic development.
Q8. Do communities understand this or do they feel left out of processes?
I think communities now understand better the challenges of funding – and the government is doing all it can in the circumstances. At the end of this month we are going to hold a national stakeholders conference to work out a framework on projects and to explain to parties our ongoing and planned as well as challenges we face – economic and environmental.
Q9. Dams are not only for agriculture but the water bodies have other uses – energy or even tourism. What is your ministry’s focus?
Water bodies created by damming are multipurpose. They serve mines, urban centres, industries, power generation, tourism (boating, chalets etc) agriculture and primary uses for communities in the vicinity. While agricultural water use may be the main purpose for building dams, my ministry still has to ensure supply to other sectors while enhancing aspects of tourism, aquaculture and the installation of mini-hydro schemes on existing dams and any future ones.
Q10. Our major rivers – Zambezi, Limpopo and even Save – are trans-boundary. What has been the response of neighbours on projects proposals on benefit-sharing?
As riparian states we talk and discuss on the impacts – both upstream and downstream. Countries do not just embark on unilateral projects without discussing.
Q13. What has the response of communities to issues of water pollution and what programmes have you in place in this direction?
Water access and water safety are essential to fulfil one of humankind’s most fundamental needs: clean water. We’re speaking to the ministry of environment and as a ministry we’ve started programmes to spearhead awareness campaigns. We are going to emphasise on rural water supply – where about 80% of people have no safe water, sharing water sources with livestock!