The government has halted the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam again, effectively throwing the long awaited Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) off track.
Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere revealed the latest development in the Senate last week and cited lack of funds for the work stoppage.
The Gwayi-Shangani Dam is supposed to anchor the MZWP mooted in 1912 as the long-term solution to Bulawayo’s water problems and the Matabeleland region as a whole.
Construction of the dam has taken over a decade already with the contractor being constantly forced to stop work due to lack of funds.
The delays have been happening at a time when Bulawayo has been facing the real prospect of running dry.
For almost a decade residents have suffered severe water cuts while the authorities keep making promises about the MZWP as the long lasting solution to the crisis.
There have also been promises that Chinese financiers are willing to pour millions of dollars to speed up the implementation of the project, but nothing tangible has materialised on the ground.
MZWP is expected to be implemented in phases, with the first being the completion of the Gwayi- Shangani Dam which would receive water from the Zambezi River.
The second phase would see the construction of a pipeline from Gwayi-Shangani Dam to a reservoir in Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park suburb while the third and final phase would be the construction of a 245km pipeline from the Zambezi River to the Gwayi-Shangani Dam.
The dry Matabeleland region traditionally receives low rainfall and Bulawayo’s urban expansion has put pressure on the city’s water supply dams forcing the local authority to resort to water-shedding.
It is high time the government showed seriousness in finding a lasting solution to the city’s water problems that have already cost it thousands of jobs through company closures.
The city cannot attract new investment as long as there is no clear solution to the water woes.
MZWP remains the only viable solution, but the government would have to do away with this amateurish approach to addressing the crisis facing Bulawayo and the region.