By Kenneth Matimaire
Hotsprings, June 13, 2016 – WATER, a naturally basic commodity to most has turned to be scarce for the impoverished communities in the lower parts of the eastern region.
Before they can sail through the harsh economic tide, hapless villagers have to face their daily struggle to locate a clean source of water.
Many have to walk 10 kilometres every day to access a safe water point while others have been forced to relocate elsewhere owing to this challenge.
Such has become the sad tale of communities that are surrounded by some of the country’s well known rivers, namely Save, Odzi and Singwizi.
Ironically, this was triggered by the advent of formal diamond mining in 2009, which was premised to turnaround the face of the impoverished communities.
However, it ended up polluting the rivers – the lifeblood of the surrounding communities – by way of discharging harmful substances used to cleanse diamond ore.
Environmental watchdogs have done little if not nothing to rescue the communities as villagers developed terminal illnesses while their livestock succumbed to the contaminated water since they have no alternatives.
This has further affected other income generating programmes the communities depended on such as gardening and fishing.
It is against this backdrop that two non-governmental organisations – ActionAid and Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela) came together to provide alternative sources of clean water following intensive engagements with the traditional leadership within the respective villages.
A total of 10 boreholes were drilled in three affected districts of Chimanimani, Chipinge and Buhera at a cost of $5,000 per borehole while more are still in the pipeline.
Villagers who spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony in Nhadza village in Hotsprings, Chimanimani West expressed their utmost gratitude for the provision of boreholes before appealing for more in other affected areas.
“We had serious water challenges in our area (Ward 5, Chimanimani West), our borehole was far, about five kilometers from where we live. We used to get our water from Odzi River but the mines contaminated the water, so the boreholes answered our daily prayer and wish that more will come in other areas that are still facing similar challenges as we did,” said Maruwa Jena.
Sithebile Maunganidze, another villager in Ward 20 emphasised the need for more boreholes.
“We are thankful of this kind gesture but our area is overpopulated. We are more than 200 on one borehole, so we desperately need more. Other are still forced to drink and bath from contaminated Odzi River, and as I speak several fellow villagers have been diagnosed with ailments as a result of using the contaminated water,” said Maunganidze.
Other villagers in Ward 3, Chipinge; Ward 28 and 30, Buhera South shared the same sentiments.
ActionAid Zimbabwe country director Ronnie Murungu said their organisation was tasked to alleviate the water challenges in the villages and as such will try to drill several boreholes in each ward for the betterment of the community.
“It is our mandate to make sure that the water crisis here is reduced to manageable levels. We understand your concerns that some are still walking more than five kilometers to access water while others are still using the contaminated river points. So we will strive to make sure that the distance each household walks to drink water is tremendously reduced.
“We hope that the boreholes that have been provided will assist in various ways by way of providing clean water and reducing the long distances that villagers, especially women, were walking to access water. We also hope that the boreholes will improve your gardening which had been abandoned as well as provision of water points for your livestock,” said.
Chimanimani Rural District Council, department of environment head Timothy Maringe Mafuka said the boreholes will go a long way in improving the income generating projects within the respective villages as they can venture into commercial gardening.