United Nations
Commission on Sustainable Development

Background Paper

                            EXPERT GROUP MEETING



                           27 - 30 January 1998

                             Harare, Zimbabwe

                                 S. Mtetwa

                               Paper No. 15

                             Prepared for the 
                 Department of Economic and Social Affairs
                              United Nations 


                                IN ZIMBABWE
                                 S. Mtetwa
                 Chairman, Zimbabwe Coordinating Committe


Zimbabwe is situated in Southern Africa, bordered by South
Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique.  The total land areas is
about 390245 km2.  The population census of 1992 indicated that
there was about 10.4 million people and a growth rate of about
3.1%. The average rainfall is about 270 billion cubic metres of
which 20 billion cubic metres is convertible to run off.  About
12 billion cubic metres  has already been allocated. Ground water
is estimated to be 2 billion cubic metres. The three main
sub-sectors of water use in Zimbabwe are Agriculture (80%),
Urban, Industrial and Mining (UIM) (15%) and Rural/Primary use
(5%).  It has also now been generally recognised by the
Government that the environment is also a legitimate user of

      Development and management of water is based on the first
come first served principle coupled with the riparian doctrine. 
Government has been in the past the major development agent and
private sector the main managers at local level but
recently private sector has proved that it can also
develop the resource quite extensively.  There is now
a great potential to develop large dams in the
private sector.  Of the large dams developed so far
the private sector owns about 40% and government 54%.


      The provision of water is core to the development of the
country■s economy.  Every government recognises this and Zimbabwe
is not an exception.  Population growth and growth of urban
centres have resulted in demand for more fresh water, but the
incidents of drought have made us to realise that water is finite
although its renewable.  The central focus of planning these days
has been on the finite nature of water resources.

      As part of the on-going reforms in the water sector in
Zimbabwe, new strategic approaches are being introduced in fresh
water resources management as part of formulating the country■s
Water Resources Management Strategy with an overall objective of 
achieving sustainable, equitable and economically feasible use of
Zimbabwe■s water resources.  The integrated, also called holistic
approach to fresh water resources management has been accepted as
a guiding principle.  Integrated fresh water resources management
implies integration in terms of  :

      -     the different physical aspects of the water resources;
      -     its spatial variation;
      -     the competing demands of water users;
      -     the institutional and legal framework;
      -     the complete set of national objectives and constraints.

      To those of  you who are involved in fresh water resources
management, you will agree with  me when I say that water
resources management is a complex activity.  It comprises the
full range of activities in the development of water resources
from demand analysis through planning,  design and construction
to operation and monitoring.  These activities are highly 
multi-disciplinary involving engineers, hydrologists,
hydrogeologists, environmentalists, ecologists, lawyers,
agriculturists, socio-economists, politicians and representatives
of interested parties, pressure groups and water users.

      The water sector is therefore characterised by lots of
players as can be seen from above.  Main institution fall into
government, private and municipalities government has a number of
institution responsible for management.  Ministry of local
government and National Housing looks after municipalities. 
Ministry of Agriculture looks after agricultural use and Ministry
of Rural Resources and Water Development looks after overall
planning and management of the resource.  There is also ministry
of Health that looks after the quality of portable water.


      Problems in fresh water management are as diverse as there
are diverse uses of the resource.  The most common
types of water use are :

      -      irrigation;
      -      domestic;
      -      industrial;
      -      commercial;
      -      waste and waste water disposal;
      -      recreation;
      -      hydropower;
      -      fisheries;
      -      wildlife and nature preservation.

      Problems can be divided into legal, institutional, financial
environmental, social, demographic and so on.  Most of these are
interrelated producing a cocktail of problems.

      For us in Zimbabwe, we have come to realise that there are
three principal forces that conspire to create water scarcity and
its potential to incite conflict or dispute. These are  :

      -      the depletion or degradation of the resource, which
shrinks the resource pie.
      -      Population growth which forces the pie to be divided
             into smaller slices.  Since 1931, the population of
             Zimbabwe has been doubling almost every 20 years.
      -      Unequal distribution or access, which means that some
             get larger slices than others or in some cases others
             get nothing at all. This issue has been exacerbated in
             the past by the concept of priority of application
             date as a basis for water allocation which seriously
             prejudiced new stakeholders. As a result, a situation
             had arisen where some water right holders had large
             amounts of water when their neighbours had virtually

      Although all the three factors often play a part in inciting
competition and conflict, it appears that unequal distribution or
access often has the most important role. In some cases, dams and
other development projects intended to improve conditions for
agriculture or the economy can end up fuelling tensions if newly
created access to the scarce resources worsens existing
inequalities, further marginalizes the poor or creates
opportunities for the rich to capture the resource.

      Other problems in fresh water management in Zimbabwe include :

      -      the introduction of the Economic Structural
             Adjustment Programme resulted in less government 
             financial support for infrastructural development.
      -      Reduced capacity in the Ministry responsible for
             overall fresh water management in the way of human
             resources and equipment.
      -      The recurrence of drought in the last decade and this
             decade has resulted in low run off causing water
             shortages and more conflicts between users and user

      -      The developed resource in government dams has been
             characterised by huge subsidies resulting in
             inefficient water usage and wastage

      -      uncontrolled ground water development coupled by
             drought have affected river refines and ground water
             mining in some areas.

      These problem plus others not mentioned coupled with the
aspirations of the people have brought about the new strategic
thinking to fresh water resources management.

                         ASPIRATION OF THE PEOPLE 

      The Zimbabwean public is beginning to open up with regards
to water management.  The droughts experienced over the years
have contributed immensely to the realisation that water
contributes a lot to both social and economic development.

      The following are aspirations that people have about fresh
water management and are derived from consultative workshops that
have been held country wide.

      -      equitable distribution of water both local and international
      -      stakeholder participation in both planning and
             management of water
      -      provision of adequate financing for development and
             management of water
      -      maintenance of good water quality standards of all
             fresh water, capable of delivering services.
      -      efficient organisations decentralised to the lowest
             achievable level.
      -      introduction of cost recovery principles but making
             sure water is affordable.
      -      improved access to fresh water for drinking and
      -      introduction of efficient water utilisation methods
             and reduction of losses.
      In short the aspirations of the people is that water should
be made available at a reasonable price and should be used and
managed efficiently.

                             PRIORITY  ACTIONS

      As conflicts over water worsen, many people wonder where we
will get water for the future.  Expanding the water supply to one
user now means taking it away from another.  Urban centres scream
for more water while commercial farmers cry "Not our Water!".  
The key challenges now therefore in fresh water management are to
establish priorities and policies for allocating water among
competing uses and users, to encourage more efficient and
productive use of water to protect the resources from pollution,
to come up with principles for sharing international waters, to
involve stakeholders in the planning and management of the
resource and to reshape institutions and the legal environment to
better suit the new era of water constraints.

With the main objective "of enhancing the social and economic
well being of the Zimbabwean population through improved fresh
water management", the strategic approaches for Zimbabwe that are
required to meet the above challenges are :

1.        Water Resources Management Strategy Programme

      Water resources management strategy aims at coming out with
strategies for managing our water resources.  Specific areas
being looked at are ; 
      -      efficient water utilisation through demand management
      -      an analysis and recommendation of a water allocation system
      -      an analysis and recommendation of water investment criterion
      -      capacity enhancement through a capacity building of
             Department of Water Development staff
      -      establishment of catchment planning principle and methodologies

      -      establishment of pricing mechanisms and pricing policies.
      This project will produce among other things guidelines to
most of the issues outlined above.

2.        Demand Management

      So what is demand management?    This is the development and
implementation of strategies to influence water demand for the
efficient and sustainable use of our scarce water resources. It
aims to:

      -      safeguard the rights of access to water for future generations;
      -      limit water demands;
      -      ensure equitable distribution;
      -      protect the environment;

      -      maximise the socio-economic output of a unit volume of water

      -      increase the efficiency of water use.

      The character of demand management is multi-disciplinary.
One cannot address demand management purely from a technical
angle.  Although it is possible to introduce water saving by
technical measures, such as drip irrigation, leakage control,
canal lining, etc., such technical measures always have financial
and administrative implications which introduce economic, legal,
institutional and eventually political aspects.

      In managing the demand, decisions should be taken on where,
in which sector and how water demands can be reduced. For this to
be achieved effectively, it is essential to understand the major
factors which influence demand. Implicitly, there will be
conflicts between competing users and trade offs will have to be
made between the benefits obtained by allocating the water to
different users in the context of the national economy.

      Public awareness campaigns and promotion are important
activities in demand management that should be directed to both
the water users and to the politicians.  Water users should
understand the importance and benefits of water conservation and
should know in which way they can contribute to water

3.        Integrating Fresh Water Management and Land Use

      The manner in which land is managed in the facets of land
units of a catchment affects hydrological behaviour. Thus, the
percentage of vegetation cover, land use and agronomic practices
in a catchment will affect infiltration rates, and consequently,
groundwater recharge, sheet erosion, surface runoff and stream
discharge. Agronomic practices such as date of planting, the type
of crop, tillage system (from zero tillage to deep plough), tied
ridges, plough direction and crop rotations are some of the land
use systems which are used to manage infield water resources.

      However, not all Zimbabwean farms are large enough to allow
for the practice of such land use systems as described above to
control soil, water and nutrient loss which leads to water
pollution. The land tenure system therefore influences the manner
in which water is managed in this country. The communal areas
show signs of overutilization and carrying three times their
potential carrying capacity of livestock and humans resulting in
the least sustainable water resources management systems.

      Comparison between the large scale commercial farming sector
and the communal areas show that the relationship between the
environment and the satisfaction of basic human needs reflect a
very low degree of needs satisfaction in the communal areas due
to low agricultural productivity compared to those in the large
scale commercial farming sector. Thus people in the communal
areas tend to manage their land resource in a manner detrimental
to the whole resource base. In extreme cases, unsustainable land
use systems with negative consequences on hydrology such as gold
panning and deforestation for commercial purposes are practiced
to meet the needs satisfaction of the communal people.

      Currently, there is a lack of an inter-disciplinary and
integrated land use planning system. The planning unit is the
village with land administration at District level. There is thus
need to promote the new integrated water and land resources
management approach.

4.        Environmental Protection

      Environmental quality depends to a large extent, on the
water quantity and water quality. Any impact on the water quality
or quantity has a direct impact on the environment.  Water
pollution from industrial, agricultural and domestic effluents is
one of the serious environmental problems that can quickly turn
into a national disaster if it is not arrested. The ecological
disaster at Lake Chivero where large volumes of aquatic life,
particularly fish were lost due to water pollution, is an example
of how far water pollution can affect the environment.

      Due to the value of water for both social and economic
benefits, a number of infrastructure development projects are
undertaken either to capture the water or to distribute it.
Construction of water facilities is one way by which man brings
about large-scale modification of natural conditions. These
activities sometime include negative effects that upset the
naturally formed equilibrium and the balance of natural
components. The construction of water facilities in  most cases
take up large areas and cause essential changes to the relief of
an area. Some of the negative impacts of water development
projects like artificial water bodies are the inundation of land,
loss of habitats of ecological communities, loss of plants,
displacement of people which might result in social stress as
well as increases in water-borne diseases like bilharzia.
Downstream impact include reduced water flow for downstream users
as well as for the aquatic life.

      It is important therefore, for the purpose of environmental
protection and sustainability to determine, especially at the
design stage of any development activity how the given ecosystem
may respond to the change that will be set in train by the
proposed project. It is important to stress that water management
strategies which do not take the environment into consideration
are not sustainable.

5.        Management of Water Resources at the Catchment Level

      In determining what geographical entity is most suitable for
regional water resource management, it is important to recognize
that water quality problems are inseparable from water quantity
and land management problems. It is therefore necessary to define
a geographic unit which can be viewed as a system so that all
factors including water utilization, water quality and land
resources can be integrated appropriately. This Unit is the river
catchment. All water-related activities in a region are linked by
the movement of water through the catchment and interdependencies
between the various activities can only be defined by examining
the catchment as a complete system.

6.        Stakeholder Participation in Water Resources Management

      A positive thing that has come out of conflicts and disputes
in water allocation and management is a recognition that
stakeholder participation has a key role in successful water
resource management as it enables interest groups to discuss new
ideas and to give important feedback relating to specific needs
and attitudes.

      On the degree of participation, experience to date in our
two Pilot Catchment Projects ( Mazowe and Mupfure ) has shown
that the nature of the particular issue in water management can
deeply influence the efficacy of increased stakeholder
participation. Certain issues in water resources management are
routine - no major conflicts of interests are involved,
responsibility for action is well defined and shifts in social
values are unlikely to influence the type of action chosen. In
these instances, the locus of responsibility is known, the
decision threatens no established interest, and consultation with
the stakeholders is normally unnecessary. Problems that might be
described as strategic including those where several competing
interests are involved and where the outcome of the decision may
ultimately affect the lives of specific groups or individuals
require direct stakeholder input.

      A few things however, are now clear. One is that if
stakeholder participation programmes are to enjoy any measures of
success, they must have credibility and transparency. They must
not be a facade, giving the impression that the public■s views
are being sought and taken into account but in reality not
considered at all. Nor must information programmes be titled
participation or involvement programmes. Only where there is a
two-way flow of communications is this a valid description.

7.        Shared International Water Course Systems

      The Helsinki Rules on the Uses of Water of International
Rivers of 1967 are utilized as guidelines in international water
resources treaties even though they are not very explicit. The
fundamental point is that co-basin States must accept the
principle of equitable and sustainable use of water resources as
a key guiding element. Upstream and downstream States must
acknowledge each other's rights to use water resources for
national development, as well as each nation■s responsibility to
the prevent the pollution and degradation of water.

      One of the major constraints to an efficient exploitation of
international shared waters is the lack of accurate knowledge
with respect to the state of the water resources within the basin
and the social expectation with respect to the strategic
behaviour of the Governments of the basin States. The Basin
States■ sincerity in revealing true preferences, commitment to an
agreement and disclosing all private information are questioned.
The Basin State Governments must develop  a trust  in each other
and allow for information acquisition and sharing.

      It will be necessary that a co-ordinated approach by all
Basin States should lead to the adoption of an integrated
utilisation and management strategy. This should be implemented,
controlled and managed by a joint commission or authority of some
kind. Such a strategy must however, be conceived by the Basin
States themselves and must be recorded in an international
agreement to which each of the Basins States concerned is party.

8.        Changes to the Water Act

      At present the main legislation in the Water Sector in
Zimbabwe is the Water Act No. 41 of 1976 which is administered by
the Department of Water Development on behalf of the Ministry of
Rural Resources and Water Development. The Act generally provides
a sound basis for managing the water resources of Zimbabwe but it
contains some shortcomings that had to be addressed to take
account of the socio-political changes that have occurred since
it was passed into legislation and also of the growing
competition for the available water which exists not only between
but also within sectors. Thus the main objectives to be achieved
by amending the Water Act of 1976 are to :

      -      improve equal access to water for all Zimbabweans;

      -      improve the management of water resources, surface
             and groundwater alike;

      -      strengthen environmental protection and

      -      simplify the Act and improve its administration.

9.        Institutional Reforms

      The formation of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority is a
result of the amalgamation and rationalization of the roles and
functions of the Regional Water Authority and the Department of
Water Development. The authority is necessary because at present
there is no separation of Government statutory and regulatory
functions for the provision of water management services. Focus
has been on constructing more dams, drilling more boreholes,
while management and planning of water resources has not been
given much attention. The Authority■s role is therefore to ensure
better use and equity in accessibility of water by all
Zimbabweans. This is to be done through the decentralized
Catchment Authorities which must fully represent all water users
in a particular catchment.

      The authority is to operate on commercial lines promoting
the polluter pays, the user pays and full cost recovery

10.        Capacity Building

      For freshwater resources management to be sustainable there
is need to build local capacity both in terms of technical and
managerial capabilities. On the technical side, resources should
be devoted to research and development activities such as
establishing the national water information centre, preparation
and implementation of regional water management plans and
installation/operation of hydrological monitoring networks.

      Human resources development should be adopted through an
extensive training plan eg. the introduction of an Msc programme
in water resources Engineering and Management, and the WRMS


      From the foregoing, it is clear that the strategic
approaches presented are dynamic requiring adjustment now and
again. If adopted however, the long term vision of freshwater
management that emerges is one that will provide greater equity
and access to water, improved efficiency of water use and
environmental protection. Only then can intergenerational
transfer of the freshwater resources be guaranteed.


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Date last posted: 8 December 1999 15:15:30
Comments and suggestions: DESA/DSD