From : Allafrica.com
By : Nqobani Ndlovu

27 February 2012

BULAWAYO’S water woes are set to end after government secured about US$900 million from a Chinese bank for the construction of the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP), which has been on the cards for over a century.

Minister of Water Resources and Development Management, Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo, said the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) has extended US$864 million to government for the project to be constructed by a Chinese firm, China Dalian Company.

“We have signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Daliam Company to construct the dam,” said Sipepa-Nkomo. “The government is now simply finalising the government to government protocol because that US$864 million will be out of a credit line from the government of China.The government is finalising the protocol.”

The money will fund the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, laying of a 450km pipeline from the dam to Bulawayo, and another pipeline from the Zambezi River to the dam.

Sipepa-Nkomo said unlike in the past when the Zanu PF administration only talked about the project during election time, the unity government was committed to the completion of the scheme.

Meanwhile, civic groups in Matabelelend region have launched a campaign to gather over one million signatures to be used to petition government to complete the long-awaited project.

The campaign, titled “100 Years of A Pipedream”, was launched by Shalom Project Trust, the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, Habbakuk Trust, Intsha.com and some churches.

Bulawayo has faced perennial water problems since independence.

Sipepa-Nkomo said Zimbabwe had the right to exploit water from the Zambezi River after the signing and ratification of the Zambezi Watercourse Commission. There were fears that the NMZWP would not take off because some of the countries that share the Zambezi River with Zimbabwe had not ratified the commission.

Funding problems have been blamed for the failure of the project to take off. In 2005, a Chinese contractor, China International Water Electrical, abandoned the project due to lack of funding and moved equipment off the site.