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Zimbabwe's Historic Masvingo City Faces Critical Water Shortages

Panic has gripped the city of Masvingo, south-eastern Zimbabwe, as water levels in Lake Mutirikwi, the country's largest inland water body, have fallen drastically amid reports the dam wall has developed cracks posing serious danger to families living downstream.

Presently Lake Mutirikwi is just 29 percent full, raising strong fears available water won't be enough to take Masvingo City to the next rainy season.

Sugar cane plantations in the lowveld that also rely heavily on the lake will be affected resulting in loss of business. This is the lowest level recorded in the lake in 20 years.

Masvingo Mayor Alderman Femias Chakabuda said there’s every reason for people in the city to panic. He says the water levels have reached alarming levels.

"I am not a water engineer but seeing from a layman yes, I am scared at the rate it's discharging water down stream and also the levels of the lake at this time of year," said Chakabuda. "We are getting scared."

It has also emerged that the dam wall, built by an Italian company in the 1950s, has developed cracks posing danger to everyone living down stream.

Naison Mureri of Murinye communal lands told VOA villagers are worried despite assurances by authorities that the cracks will not give in just yet.

"We are told the wall is still okay but imagine if one day its washed away; there will be disaster," said Mureri.

Zimbabwe National Water Authority officials in Masvingo refused to comment on the issue.

In Harare meanwhile, residents’ advocates are pressing the city council to liaise with defaulters rather than cutting off their water when they fail to pay bills.

The Combined Harare Residents Association, along with other resident groups, said the city’s move to disconnect water and remove water meters from households that are failing to pay is too severe, adding it exposes people to health risks.

Combined Harare Residents Association coordinator Simbarashe Moyo said they have reached out to city fathers but there seems to be a disconnect between employees on the ground and the authorities.