THE recent announcement by the national water body, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) that dam levels in the country have risen significantly and three of them including Rusape Dam were now full to capacity, to an ordinary person who doesn’t know the history of the dam, was just an announcement to inform and alert the public.
Yet to some who have knowledge of Rusape Dam, the announcement came as a surprise to them.
Before December 29, 2022, rainfall was average in Makoni District which makes the filling up of the dam so early unusual.
During the dry season, water is released by ZINWA to irrigate sugarcane and wheat estates in the Lowveld.
This means that before the commencement of the rainy season, the dam would have lost significant water that requires a lot of inflows to fill it up.
On December 29, 2022, ZINWA announced on its Twitter handle that: “Rusape Dam is now full and floodgates have been opened to allow excess water to flow out.”
Questions are awash on why the dam is filling up so early?
Has ZINWA reduced the amount of water that they release during the dry season?
The answer is NO because a new consumer – GreenFuel – was in the past few years added, among the new beneficiaries of Rusape water.
Environmentalists and residents all concur that siltation is taking its toll on the dam and measures must be put in place to protect this important and strategic water body.
Mr Wellington Madumira, the coordinator of Climate Action Network Zimbabwe, said tonnes of gravel from dust roads are finding their way into the dam during the rainy seasons.
Rusape Town Council and private road contractors have a tendency of leaving heaps of gravel without being compacted and they will be washed away by rains.
The dam is on the lower side of the town.
“Up stream riverbank cultivation in residential areas such as Vengere, Mabvazuva, Magamba and Silverbow is resulting in more soil getting into the dam. Run-off accompanied with poor drainage of dust roads within Rusape urban is also contributing as most of the roads have gravel which is being washed away into the dam yearly.
“Poor drainage is as a result of poor waste management which is clogging drainage, hence causing runoff on gravel roads. River and stream bank cultivation should be stopped through enforcement of by-laws as well as education awareness to the community who must be made aware that they are destroying water bodies,” said Mr Madumira.
Environmental activist and national tree ambassador, Mr Never Bonde, whose organisation, Isandla Esihle is developing a botanical garden on the shores of the dam, said action must be taken to protect the water body before it is too late.
“Both the dam and the river are falling victim to siltation. A lot of illegal activities are being carried out on the banks of these water sources. Brick moulding, deforestation and stream bank cultivation must be stopped there. River banks and the dam shore must be secured from activities that threaten the existence of the water sources.
“We were surprised to learn that Rusape Dam had filled up in December last year. From what we know, the dam usually fills up when significant rainfall is received and that was not the case before December 29.
“Authorities must look into the matter with urgency and rectify the issue. The dam is of national importance as it provides drinking water to Rusape town as well as irrigate sugarcane and wheat estates in the Lowveld,” said Mr Bonde.
However, Macheke Sub-Catchment manager, Mr Jonathan Mazani whose council manages Rusape River believes that there is no significant siltation that is affecting both the river and dam.
“The level of siltation in Rusape River and Dam cannot be classified as alarming. The runoff of soil is not significant to the extent that we can relate that to the early filling of the dam. The rainfall received in December were sufficient enough to fill up the dam because the dam had significant water before the rainy season,” said Mr Mazani.
Acting Rusape Town Council secretary, Mr Togarepi Nerwande, said they have put measures to curb soil erosion that will affect the dam.
“We have crafted an Urban Agriculture by-law awaiting approval. It will address issues to do with the stream bank cultivation and water sources siltation. We have budgeted for equipment recapitalisation in our 2023 budget. This equipment will assist in gravel compaction.
“Most of the eroded material from gravel roads is usually deposited in existing drains. This is usually removed before it finds its way to the natural water courses since council conducts routine drainage de-silting work.
“We have staff that carries out storm water drainage clearance. An Integrated Waste Management Plan has been prepared that will help in terms of waste management,” said Mr Nerwande.