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Dwindling Water Supplies Haunt Matabeleland

The decomissioning of Bulawayo’s second supply dam has sent shockwaves among residents who fear the move will result in the tightening of water rationing already in place.

The city council announced late Monday it had stopped pumping water from the Inyankuni dam due to rapidly dwindling levels.

Although authorities sought to allay public fears, telling residents that this will not lead to more rationing, many feel that cuts lasting more than the current three-day period are inevitable.

The severing of Inyankuni Dam means only three of the city’s five supply dams remain operational. The first to be decomissioned was Upper Ncema.

Incoming councillor for Ward 24, Gideon Mangena told VOA residents are worried about the city’s perenially precarious water situation.

"As I speak to you, there is no running water in my area," Mangena said. "Residents are worried, but there is little authorities can do to alleviate the situation."

The City of Bulawayo is by no means alone in this predicament.

Even rural dwellers in the entire drought-prone Matabeleland region say on top of grappling hunger, they are also facing massive water shortages.

Villagers complain of ageing water infrastucture and heavily silted dams, a combination they blame for compounding their dire water situation.

"Our dams were constructed several decades ago and some of them are long overdue for rehabilitation because they no longer hold water for long," said Thamani Ncube, a former councillor in Plumtree's Madlambudzi rural area.

Ncube added that roaming herds of elephants in his area, some comprising as much as 50 jumbos, were also contributing to the water problem.

"We also have a problem of elephants drinking water from our dams. You can imagine 50 elephants or more making regular trips to a small dam that was never meant for wildlife," Ncube said.

Elephants are known water guzzlers, and one jumbo can drink as much as 40 liters or more per day, especially during the hot summer season.