Breaking: Typhoid, cholera fears as Harare City Council says it has two days left of chlorine gas

Harare City Council (HCC) only has two days left of stocks of chlorine gas, the city confirmed this morning, pleading with the central bank to release foreign currency allocation to companies that import water treatment chemicals to avert catastrophe. 

The current short supply of foreign currency has forced the local authority to reduce daily water production from 420 megalitres per day to less than 100 megalitres per day.

The daily water demand in Harare ranges from 800 to 1200 megalitres. About 62% of water produced daily by HCC is lost through leakages, illegal connections and commercial losses.

HCC said in a statement this morning that it had enhanced engagement with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe over the timely release of forex to companies that import water treatment chemicals from South Africa and China.

Currently our water production is very depressed. We are managing only 100 million litres against a daily average of 450 million litres. Our available stocks of chlorine gas can only last us for two days,” HCC warned, adding: 

“The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has promised to release an initial US$150 000 towards the importation of chlorine gas. We use a tonne of chlorine gas daily.”

Chlorine is used as a disinfectant to kill bacteria in the water. HCC said it requires US$3 million every month for the purchase of water purification chemicals. 

The other chemicals we use are activated carbon for removing odours, alum sulphate and sodium silicate for removing solid particles, lime for pH regulation, sulphiric acid to reduce pH, HTH for removing algae and ammonia for chlorine retentionin the reticulation system,” HCC said. 

The city’s fate comes amid concerns that the unavailability of foreign currency has in the past contributed greatly to the cholera epidemic of 2007/8 in Zimbabwe.

Community Water Alliance (CWA) weighed in saying it was vital for the quality and quantity of potable water that foreign currency be availed for the purchase of water treatment chemicals.

In 2017 the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe availed USD 12 886 268.00 for the whole year. The required amount for 2017 was approximately USD 36 000 000.00. The amount availed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is a mere one third of the required amount. Because of this allocation, the quality of potable water in City of Harare which is expected to reflect World Health Organization Guidelines fell from 88.4% in 2016 to 86.5% in 2017,” the community group said in a statement following revelations of the city’s predicament.

City of Harare supplies water to Chitungwiza Municipality, Norton Town Council, Ruwa Local Board and Epworth Local Board. 

“During the period 2017/2018, cholera and typhoid outbreaks dominated discussions on health, sanitation and water delivery in Zimbabwe. The worthless bearer cheque of 2007/8 birthed a similar trend in Zimbabwe. Besides the much hyped obsolete infrastructure in Harare, the unavailability of foreign currency contributed greatly to the cholera epidemic of 2007/8 in Zimbabwe,” CWA said. 

Community Water Alliance believes that the current discussions on water delivery in Harare and Zimbabwe at large should not forget the implications of paltry allocation of foreign currency on sufficiency and potability of water delivery.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is therefore complicity in the challenges of water delivery in Harare. We therefore call for peaceful citizen action targeting the RBZ so that priority is given to water treatment chemicals. Citizens have an option to either act of issues affecting them or die silently from cholera and typhoid.”