Harare: The setting up of an interim secretariat for the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (Zamcom) has boosted Zimbabwe’s chances of getting authority from riparian states to draw water from the Zambezi River, NewsDay has learnt. Riparian states are countries that are connected to a river. Countries riparian to the vast Zambezi include Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique. Zamcom spokesperson Leonissah Abwino Munjoma said the secretariat which is based in Botswana aimed to assist countries that share the Zambezi River to achieve regional integration through sharing the treasured water resources of the river basin.
'The first responsibility of the secretariat is to coordinate the riparian states and inform them of the expected steps needing their support towards the realisation of the ultimate operationalisation of the Zamcom agreement and its vital governance organs,' she said.
Water Resources Management and Development minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The Zambezi watercourse is of particular importance in the region because it is shared by eight countries with a total population of over 50 million. Last year, Nkomo said Zimbabwe formally approached other riparian countries to seek permission to draw water from Zambezi.
The now renamed National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project is seen as a permanent solution to end water crisis in the Matabeleland region, and Bulawayo in particular. However, the water project has moved at snail’s pace with no substantial developments despite numerous cash injections by the government and other stakeholders.
The ambitious project to pipe water from the Zambezi River 452 kilometres away was first mooted in 1912 but abandoned by successive governments due to the high costs involved.
The majority of the riparian states signed the Zamcom Agreement in July 2004. Through the Zamcom Agreement, Munjoma said the Zambezi River Basin states envisage working together to develop and manage the shared water resources of the vast basin. 'To that effect, five countries have already ratified the agreement and it is expected to come into force after six of the eight riparian states ratify it, said Munjoma.
'The establishment of a permanent secretariat and other requisite organs of the Commission is dependent on ratification of the agreement' she added.