Access to clean water must be prioritised: ZELA

Poor service delivery in local authorities is posing a major threat to access to clean and safe water, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has said.

The organisation made these remarks in a statement released Monday in commemoration of World Water Day which was running under the theme: Valuing Water.

ZELA said in order for the services to improve, the government must invest significant resources in local authorities.

The organisation noted that the water and sanitation crisis demands a holistic, systemic, and multilateral response especially taking into consideration that water critically matters to deliver almost all SDGs and is essential for resilience to climate change.  

“Section 77(a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees the right to safe, clean, and potable water. This provision reflects the country’s obligations to provide water to the citizens as required in the human rights instruments that the country has ratified. Water challenges are likely to continue in the foreseeable future unless far-reaching democratic local governance reforms and significant resources are invested in the sector to ensure that households have access to water,” the statement read.

“Such actions should be underpinned by proper management of resources and adoption of social accountability measures in service delivery. Therefore the government must protect the right to water for its citizens by preventing any interference that makes it impossible for the citizens to enjoy this human right.”

ZELA said government and local authorities have a duty to provide clean, safe, and potable water while citizens must pay their rates and be guaranteed uninterrupted service delivery.

“The service delivery sector has its fair share of problems that require intervention. Among several challenges facing the management of water resources is the pollution of water bodies which has led to the loss of sources of livelihoods and ecosystems,” the statement read.

“Rivers, dams, and underground water sources are heavily polluted and, in some cases, over-exploited thereby depriving downstream communities of access to adequate water resources. This is a violation of the right to water.”

ZELA highlighted that mining, due to the nature of its operations, is linked to large scale impacts that include siltation, chemical pollution and heavy metal pollution. 

“Irresponsible mining operations and subsequent pollution of the same rivers downstream exemplifies the magnitude of the problem. While the law provides the right to water and equitable distribution, in practice many communities do not have access to clean, safe, and adequate water. Some villagers walk long distances to access clean water,” the statement read.

“It is thus recommended that the necessary infrastructure to process all wastewater from the mines should be put in place by the mining companies, and as part of their community responsibility, mines must facilitate the clean-up processes. The problems of water quality and environmental degradation need to be addressed before there is irreparable damage to the environment and people’s livelihoods.”

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