Zimbabwe's Access to Water Is in Peril
The 2 million residents of Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, and its surrounding areas found themselves without water on Monday and Tuesday when the authorities abruptly shut down the city's main water treatment plant, raising fears of cholera outbreaks and other water borne diseases, as the AP reported.
Zimbabwe's crumbling economy has left the local government without enough money to import the necessary water treatment chemicals to allow the water to run. The Harare City Council deputy mayor Enock Mupamawonde told reporters that the local authority required 40 million Zimbabwe dollars a month ($2.7 million) for water chemicals — well short of the 15 million Zimbabwe dollars it collected in monthly revenue, as Reuters reported.
He said the money shortage meant the council had to close its Morton Jaffray treatment plant outside of Harare.
"It (the shutdown) is due to the non availability of foreign currency...it is devastating to say the least," Mupamawonde told reporters as he urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government to declare the water crisis a national disaster, according to Reuters.
He also told reporters that officials were working to secure a week's supply of chemicals from Bulawayo, the country's second-biggest city, to resume operation and they hoped to get water running in homes by late Tuesday, according to CNN.
The Morton Jaffray treatment plant did resume pumping water yesterday, which brought some relief to residents, as Reuters reported.
"The secured quantities will only last seven days during which period other quantities will be secured. We are currently engaging all stakeholders, including the government to find a lasting solution to the water crisis," said Mupamaonde on Tuesday, as CNN reported.
Zimbabweans have endured a harsh drought this year after an abnormal El Niño season. Water levels in the country's polluted reservoirs have dropped precipitously, leaving cities and towns without the ability to provide water to their residents. Earlier this summer, the country's two largest cities started rationing water to their residents, allowing some people to have running water only once a week, as EcoWatch reported.
"The toilets at school are just too filthy, people continue using them yet there is no water," said Dylan Kaitano, a 12-year-old waiting in line at wells, to the AP. "I didn't go to school today because I have to be here."
Debris such as plastic bottles, tires and algae floated in the shallow waters at the Chivero reservoir, the city's main water supply. The water, which looks green, also releases a choking, foul smell, according to the AP.
The water shortages have made the quality of life plummet in Harare, which now frequently has cases of typhoid triggered by water shortages and broken sewers. Many residents have had to fetch water from unsafe wells and defecate outdoors, according to the AP.
Tambudzai Murwa, a Harare resident, told CNN she dug a well to meet her needs since the water rationing started.
"We hardly have water in our taps," she said. "We pray daily that the cholera outbreak does not recur. A few boreholes were dug, but you have to queue for long to get water, yet we have other things that we have to queue for in our lives."
Twenty-six people died last year in a cholera outbreak, prompting President Emmerson Mnangagwa to express dismay that Zimbabweans were perishing from a "medieval" disease, according to the AP.
"Nothing is working in this country, how do we survive?" Hatineyi Kamwanda, another Harare resident said to the AP, referring to the country's shortages of medicine, food and fuel, in addition to water. "We can't even use the toilets, the children are not going to school because of this and now we fear cholera is going to hit us again. The president should treat us as human beings, we voted for him."
The water was turned back on near midnight Tuesday evening, but it is just a buffer period while the city scrambles to come up with the necessary money to pay for water purifying chemicals, according to Reuters.
"We are taking this as a buffer period to work around what happens next," said Mupamawonde at a media briefing, as Reuters reported. He said that some of the city's chemical supplies were stuck at the border with South Africa in the south, awaiting payment and clearance.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.