Zinwa raises red flag over illegal abstractions
Victor Maphosa and Blessings Chidakwa
THE Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) has raised a red flag over illegal water abstractions from conveyance canals in the Lowveld.
ZINWA corporate communications and marketing manager Mrs Marjorie Munyonga in an interview said the water utility was concerned with an upsurge in the illegal activities.
“ZINWA notes with great concern the increase in illegal abstractions of water in the Lowveld water conveyance system,” she said.
“ZINWA runs the water conveyance canals that deliver water to the field edges of various sugarcane farmers in Triangle, Chiredzi and Mkwasine.
“While the authority has established some water off-takes to allow communities living along the Manjirenji Canal access to water, there has been an upsurge in illegal water abstractions along both the canals delivering water from Manjirenji Dam to Mkwasine, and the one conveying water from Nyajena Weir to the Triangle and Hippo Valley Sugarcane Estates.”
Mrs Munyonga said it was illegal to abstract water from the canals.
“ZINWA, therefore, wishes to warn all those people involved in illegal water abstraction agreements along the canals that their actions constitute a criminal offence in terms of the Water Act and the Criminal Law (Protection of Communications, Power and Water Infrastructure) Amendment of 2011 and offenders are liable to prosecution and imprisonment of up to 10 years,” she said.
Mrs Munyonga said illegal water users blocked the canals with tree branches and rocks, forcing water to spill from the canals into their fields, while in some instances they siphon water from the canals to their fields using pipes.
She said ZINWA was losing millions of dollars in repairing and maintaining damaged canals due to the illegal abstractions.
Mrs Munyonga said by drawing water already flowing in the canals, the illegal users would be eating into the allocations of legitimate water abstraction agreement holders since ZINWA released water from the dams into the conveyance channels based on the requirements of agreement holders.
In the end, illegal abstractions deprive agreement holders of the water they are legally entitled to.
“ZINWA has also observed that some of these illegal users are going to the extent of even damaging the canals and their embankments in the process of extracting water, posing a serious danger to property and human lives, taking into account the high volume of water the canals are capable of transmitting,” said Mrs Munyonga.
“For example, some of the canals are capable of conveying up to 20 000 litres of water per second. Damaging water conveyance canals also costs ZINWA millions of dollars every year in repairs and maintenance of this critical infrastructure.
“The authority will soon be launching an exercise to weed out any illegal water use in the Lowveld in conjunction with various stakeholders.”
Mrs Munyonga said whereas ZINWA strongly believed in the right of communities to benefit from water in their areas, the authority was of the view that such right should be pursued within the confines of the law.