Why sewer rehab matters in disease prevention

Roselyne Sachiti Features Editor
The Harare City Council is set to partner Sinohydro Corporation in a $237 million deal to construct four new sewage treatment plants as well as rehabilitating and extending existing plants.

Under phase one of the project, the Chinese firm will expand Crowborough Sewerage Treatment Plant, install supporting pipework and construct Lyndhurst Sewerage Treatment Plant and rehabilitate the existing outfall sewer.

Phase 2 will see the partners upgrade and rehabilitate Firle Sewerage Treatment Plant, as well as upgrade of Crowborough, Lake Chivero dredging and construction of a 60 megalitres a day and supporting pipework for the Southern Incorporated Areas.

Synohydro and the city will construct a 15 megalitre a day Budiriro Sewerage Treatment Works and a 30MI/day Gwebi Sewerage Treatment Works under Phase 3 of the project.

The current water and sanitation situation in Harare faces many challenges around capacity, behaviours and the lack of investment.

Over the years, the increasing population as a result of rural to urban migration has not been matched with sewer infrastructural development. This has also put a burden on the infrastructure which has collapsed.

Such measures taken by council to improve water and sanitation as a way of disease control cannot be underestimated given the strong correlation between water and sanitation hygiene and diarrhoeal disease outbreaks like cholera, typhoid and schistosomiasis.

Past experiences prove how Harare’s corroded water and sanitation infrastructure resulted in the city being the worst hit by a cholera outbreak last year. Residents of Budiriro and Glen View were the worst affected as the disease was traceable to unrepaired sewage pipes whose seeping contents contaminated boreholes in the two residential areas.

If well executed the sewer treatment works and pipe upgrade under the Sinohydro Corporation and City of Harare deal can help improve water and sanitation in Harare especially in areas hard hit by cholera in 2008 and 2018.

The Harare City Council has also gained a reputation of pumping “unpalatable” water into households with most residents having since stopped drinking it for fear of diseases.

According to its official website, the City of Harare now uses eight chemicals to effectively deal with the impurities – a costly exercise that is incurring an expenditure of US$3 million per month.

Besides the mammoth costs, there is also reduced productivity as filters at the works are frequently choked and have to be backwashed. The current backwashing frequency is now every eight hours resulting in water losses of 105 ML/day instead of backwashing once in 48 hours which would lose only 17,5 ML/day.

This is just an indication of the several underlying environmental sanitation risks the city has been facing.

Interventions by Government and its partners have somewhat tried to address WASH challenges caused by poor sanitation.

In 2018, UN organisations like UNICEF continued to increase access to water through the urban WASH programme which also saw a two-fold increase in water production across 14 small towns, Harare included, alongside rehabilitation of sewer systems.

The Government, with support from UNICEF and other partners , also approved a gender-sensitive Sanitation and Hygiene Policy. The policy aims to create an open defecation free Zimbabwe by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Hopefully, more investment will be poured into infrastructure development.

The thrust of the new dispensation of ensuring that Zimbabwe is open and ready for investment gives hope that infrastructure development deficits will be dealt with and the Sinohydro Corporation deal is a good starting point.

It is proven that improved sanitation can reduce diarrhoeal diseases by more than a third and can significantly lessen the adverse health impacts of other disorders responsible for death and disease among millions of children in developing countries.

According to WaterAid, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are fundamental to health and despite progress on child mortality, infectious diseases still pose the largest threat to the health of young children. An infection such as diarrhoea is the third biggest killer of children under five in Sub-Saharan Africa and almost 90 percent of cases of diarrhoea are caused by poor WASH.

Research being funded by billionaire couple Bill and Melinda Gates over the past eight years has been trying to find cheaper ways of improving sanitation in developing countries.

In their 2019 annual report released recently, the philanthropists say they challenged engineers and scientists around the world to re-invent the toilet.

“More than 2 billion people around the world lack access to a decent toilet. Their waste often ends up in the environment, untreated, killing nearly 800 children every day. And exporting rich world sanitation solutions isn’t an option, because they require sewer systems that are too expensive to build and need a lot of water.

“The real magic happens out of sight.”

Unlike today’s commodes, the report notes, the toilets of the future are self-contained. They’re essentially tiny treatment plants capable of killing pathogens and rendering waste safe on their own. Many of them even turn human faeces and urine into useful by- products, like fertiliser for crops and water for handwashing.

Alongside other interventions like sewer infrastructure rehabilitation, residents can also play their part.

Since most clogging is a result of waste discarded into the sewer system, proper waste disposal at household level is vital.

Council also has to play its part by educating residents on proper solid and liquid waste disposal to avoid future clogging of sewer infrastructure.

This includes availing proper information on disposal of diapers, plastics, bottles, metals, sanitary pads, oils, the major culprits which tend to clog the sewer system.

Regular refuse collection should top council’s priority list to discourage residents from dumping such waste in the sewer system.

Once all the modalities are in place, the Sinohydro Corporation deal should correct the past challenges and create a better future.

roselyne.sachiti33@gmail.com roselyne.sachiti33@gmail.com. Twitter @RoselyneSachiti

source:the herald

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