WATER technicians have expressed concern over increased pollution and degradation affecting most African countries amid calls for co-operation among States in such areas as trans-boundary management of the precious resource.

This emerged during a Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) study tour of the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) covering Zimbabwe and Zambia last week.

The ZAMCOM initiative is the largest water management system in southern Africa.

It is a water management organisation for the eight countries that share the Zambezi River Basin including Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe to promote and support the sustainable development and efficient management of the Zambezi Watercourse for equitable benefit of inhabitants.

The NBI is an intergovernmental organisation comprising 10 Nile Basin riparian States of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda with a shared objective of promoting sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilisation of the shared Nile Basin water resources.

The experiential tour of the Zambezi River Basin was meant to increase awareness, knowledge and capacity in transboundary water quality management, pollution control and conservation activities at both national and regional levels.

According to the NBI, the tour, which covered Harare, Kariba and Siavonga, was aimed at providing an interactive, comparative and practical approach to learning more about transboundary water quality and pollution control in a river basin similar to the Nile Basin.

Pollution and water quality deterioration within the Zambezi River Basin have been attributed to increased industrial and agricultural activities, soil erosion, rapid urbanisation and mining operations.

Evidence of this is demonstrated in the increased level of total suspended solids in Zambezi River tributaries such as Kafue, Luangwa, Deka and Gwai rivers.

Officially opening the tour in Harare last week, Lands and Agriculture ministry water resources management director Gilbert Mawere said while Zimbabwe was making efforts to provide clean water for its citizens, challenges of water pollution were increasing, especially in urban centres.

He said the Zimbabwe government was targeting to drill 35 000 boreholes by 2030 having acquired 16 drilling rigs, adding that each village should have a safe water source.

However, according to Mawere, water pollution was a serious problem, especially in cities and towns which are struggling to treat water.

“There are water treatment plants, but these have not managed to provide clean water, especially after it has been used and the observation is that most sources downstream have polluted water.

“This has resulted in most authorities battling to address issues of water pollution affecting water sources that are found after the urban centres,” he said.

NBI executive director Sylvester Matemu said water quality was one of the major challenges faced by societies because it impacts on human health, food production, ecosystem functions, and economic growth.

“Water quality deterioration translates directly into environmental, social and economic problems,” he said.

ZAMCOM was set up through an agreement in 2004 with one key objective to promote the equitable and reasonable utilisation of the water resources of the Zambezi Watercourse as well as the efficient management and sustainable development thereof.

The commission, according to ZAMCOM executive secretary Felix Ngamlagosi, was established within the premises of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), hence the agreement is hinged on a wider regional policy framework of co-operation, the Revised Sadc Protocol on Shared Watercourses.

ZAMCOM has also developed a 22-year Zambezi Watercourse Strategic Plan which runs up to year 2040 and which defines key strategic areas of focus in addressing key regional challenges.

“The identified key issues in our region are persistent poverty, competing uses, infrastructure deficit, environmental degradation, disaster risks (droughts and floods).

“In order to operationalise the Zambezi Strategic Plan, ZAMCOM has now developed a Programme for Integrated Development and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Zambezi Watercourse.

“This is an integrated and multi-stakeholder investment initiative which involves all key stakeholders from various sectors in the Zambezi River Basin. The investment programme will run for five years from 2023 to 2027,” he said.

The ongoing and priority activity, according to Ngamlagosi, was to mobilise financial and technical resources from potential development partners for the implementation of the programme.

“River Basin Organisations in Africa, NBI and ZAMCOM notwithstanding, still require support from development partners, both financial and technical resources, to implement various interventions that address some of the challenges that face our river basins.

“This support is still needed. However, looking at it from a different angle, our continent has also accumulated valuable experiences and capacity which may be useful in accelerating the pace of developments in our river basins,” he said.

Ngamlagosi also called on the harnessing of experiences and lessons from institutions within the African continent.

“This study tour comes in as one of ways in which we can enhance our institutional and personal knowledge, capacity, skills and also share knowledge and reflections in addressing our challenges,” he said.

“This high-level experience sharing tour by the NBI, therefore, comes at the right time and has positive impact on both sides as we are able to bridge the gap of knowledge, skills and expertise in our organisations.”