Tanaka Mahanya Features Writer
Whenever it rains, seeking cover on pavements in the Harare Central Business District (CBD) does not stop one from getting wet.
In fact, there is more danger in avoiding the rains.
The point may be over elaborate, but not too divorced from the situation in Harare’s CBD, where pavements are turned into pools, disrupting the flow of traffic whenever the heavens open up.
Stagnant, dirty water is a permanent sight in Harare’s downtown area during the rainy season.
The area is best avoided when it rains.
People going home from work must jump over pools of water as storm-water drains have been blocked by litter. But even breaking the world long jump record is not enough, as passing cars have a tendency of splashing the grimy water on their clothes.
Drains are blocked by plastics, food leftovers and sand, which affect the smooth flow of water, blocking pavements and roads.
Street dwellers are exposed to health risks because of the city’s poor drainage system.
The major risk factor for outbreaks associated with flooding is the contamination of drinking water facilities, which leads to water- borne diseases, especially for those who rely on wells.
Car owners, residents and pedestrians now live in fear of flooding whenever there are heavy rains.
Lack of consistency in refuse collection further worsens the problem as litter is left unattended and finds its way into drainage systems.
Council has been promising to upgrade the city’s drainage systems over the years, but to no avail.
Each time it rains, residents experience some form of floods, or is it now a tradition?
One wonders where ratepayers’ money is going. Or is it, like the rainwater, going down the drain?
In 2014, there was a hailstorm which flooded parts of the CBD, thanks to the poor drainage system. At the time, the City of Harare’s Director of Works, Engineer Phillip Pfukwa, said there was nothing to worry about.
The City of Harare, he said, reacted swiftly to the crisis by dispatching teams to unblock catch pits and storm-water drains following flash floods that swept garbage into the drainage system.
What worries Harare residents is why they would want to act when damage has already been done, especially when prevention is better than cure.
This should have been a wake-up call to council officials to construct a more efficient drainage system to avoid such disasters. Instead, it is false promises as usual, and people live to experience the same situation year in, year out
Eng Pfukwa promised residents that council workers will be deployed to clear drainage systems in the CBD and in all residential areas.
There were also assurances that the local authority would install more bins in the CBD and clear designated dumpsites to minimise waste that finds its way into storm-water drains.
What is boggles the mind is why Harare is obsessed with fire fighting rather finding long-term solutions to the this perennial problem.
In 2018, council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said council was aware of the drainage problem. “As we speak, work is in progress to make sure that the affected areas are attended to. Issues to do with flooding are associated with the rainy season,” said Mr Chideme.
We have experienced the same problem again this year, though last year council “attended” to the problem.
It appears council is always “working on the problem”. One wonders if there is a template ready to be read to journalists when they ask about Harare’s poor drainage system.
HCC principal communications officer Mr Innocent Ruwende told The Herald recently that council was working on the city’s drainage system.
“We have covered most of the CBD and some suburbs”, he said.
“The problem we have been facing is that vendors who store their wares in some of the stormwater drains are blocking the smooth flow of water and some companies who were laying their fibre cables also blocked some of our systems.
“We are currently working to ensure that we unblock the channels which were closed,” Mr Ruwende said. But is this not too little, too late?
The issues being raised by council happen under their watch throughout the year, yet they do not seem to plan for the rainy season.
The City of Harare is aware of the vending problem in the capital but has failed to relocate them to designated sites.
From the look of things, it seems the city fathers only react when a major disaster strikes.
This writer is sure this time next year and in the years to come, someone will be writing about the same issues because the city fathers will still be singing the same tune.