Zimbabwe’s biggest lake dries up


    MASVINGO —Water levels at Lake Mutirikwi, Zimbabwe’s biggest inland dam, have drastically declined owing to poor rainfall, making life difficult for people living within the vicinity of the lake.

    The poor rainfall across the southern African region has been linked to the El Nino weather phenomenon that has triggered drought in sub-Saharan Africa and floods in the northern hemisphere.

    Royal Zano, who has lived on fishing in the lake for many years, said the situation was distressing.

    “The fish are now hard to come by as they have also moved deeper into the middle of the lake where there is more water,” said Zano who on this particular day had cast his nets in the dam at the crack of dawn, but had not caught any fish by mid-morning.

    “On good days, by now I should be heading to the market to sell my catch, but of late it has been a different story altogether,” said Zano, wiping off sweat from his brow.
    “We are now being forced to move deeper into the water so as to follow the fish, and it is tough, as the fish seem to be panicking as well,” he said, throwing his hands in the air.
    Further ashore, young men play soccer, while their cattle move further into the lake in search of drinking water.

    In good years, when sufficient rains fell, these boys would not have been playing at that particular spot because it would have been submerged.

    “Many cattle are getting stuck in the mud this year as they search for water and we end up calling for help to pull them out using ropes,” Zano said.

    Herdsmen are now driving their cattle for more than 10km to water them in the lake because all the small streams feeding the lake have dried up.

    The situation is getting desperate for farmers as the country’s rainfall and farming season enters into the second and last half. So far Masvingo has lost more than 5 000 cattle to the dry spell.

    The Zimbabwe Water Authority (ZINWA) has indicated that water levels in the lake have dropped to 23 percent of capacity, raising concerns about severe water rationing in the Lowveld cane plantations that could trigger sugar shortages.

    The Lowveld’s Hippo Valley and Triangle sugar estates depend on Lake Mutirikwi for their water for irrigation.

    The country’s oldest urban settlement, Masvingo City, also relies on the lake as its sole source of water supply and this would mean increased water rationing, mayor, Hubert Fidze has since warned.

    Figures released by ZINWA also indicate that, as of last week, other dams in Masvingo are in a critical state with Bangala Dam, which also feeds water for irrigation for the Lowveld cane plantations, at 14,4 percent capacity, while Manjirenji Dam is at 33,8 percent capacity.

    “We are back to square one. The heat is back. We have never received any rains this season. Lake Mutirikwi is now sitting at 23 percent. We are now facing challenges with our water supply. We have opened the last valve to the emergency one. Action is needed as soon as yesterday.

    “As Masvingo City, we will do our best with the same quality supply of water as always. More prayers for the rains!” Fidze wrote recently on social networking site, Facebook.

    The water shortages would most certainly affect the country’s sugar production levels due to the unavailability of water for irrigation.

    Chiredzi West legislator, Darlington Chiwa, under whose constituency the cane plantations fall, said a tight water-saving irrigation system had been adopted by sugarcane farmers as well as sugar producing giant, Hippo Valley’s Tongaat Hullet.

    “We are now experiencing water shortages in the cane plantations and as we speak, water is now being used sparingly,” he said.

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