Victoria Falls — Council has been petitioned by residents to stop approving new housing projects because the resort town is now overcrowded.
At a recent stakeholders' meeting convened to discuss the 2017 budget, residents made the point that the existing infrastructure can no longer cope with the town's population, estimated at over 40 000.
For example, residents are going for days, if not weeks, without water, and the sewer infrastructure is showing signs of being overwhelmed as evidenced by the prevalence of burst pipes.
Currently, the town has 7 000 housing units, and a housing backlog of 15 000.
Victoria Falls, better known for being home to one of the seven natural wonders of the world -- also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, has been unable to clear the housing backlog because it has run out of land.
What complicates its situation is that the town is located within the Zambezi and Chamabondo National parks hence it cannot grow its stock of land without decimating the wildlife environment.
To avoid putting a strain on service provision, city fathers were recently advised to decline new applications for housing.
"Council is failing to supply water, but still wants to add more people. There is no land for expansion and the waiting list should also stop expanding," bemoaned one of the residents who attended the meeting.
A businessman, only identified as Moyo, said it boggles the mind that council was generating revenue through application fees from people who wish to be included on the housing waiting list when it was quite obvious that the municipality no longer has the land for new housing projects.
Council charges US$5, US$10 and US$15 for one to be included on the housing waiting list for high density, low and medium density sections, respectively.
"Why don't you suspend the process and tell those people seeking housing stands to go elsewhere like in Hwange or Lupane?" queried the businessman.
The last time council went into housing development was in 2005 when it rolled out the Hlalani Kuhle/Garikai housing initiative, which was meant to resettle victims of Operation Murambatsvina, conducted 11 years ago to restore order in various towns and cities.
The project, named Mfelandawonye suburb, saw council utilising a buffer zone that was meant to be an animal corridor, infuriating animal lovers in the process.
Notwithstanding pressure from residents, the city fathers are unlikely to take heed.
Acting town clerk, Kholwani Mangena, said council has no legal basis to suspend new applications for houses because every citizen of this country should have a roof over their head.
"I don't think as a local authority we can legally do that as people are allowed to seek accommodation anywhere in the country," Mangena said.
Meanwhile, council, along with the Hwange Local Board, have appealed to government to be allowed to take over the management of raw water from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) in order to improve the availability of the resource to their residents.
Both councils accuse ZINWA, which has the rights to pump water into their respective towns, of incompetence.
In Victoria Falls, ZINWA is failing to manage the pumping system which needs constant shifting in the Zambezi River, as water levels are rapidly falling due to excessive heat.
Mayor, Sifiso Mpofu, recently told a full council meeting that discussions with the relevant authorities were in progress to claim pumping rights from ZINWA.
ZINWA blames the poor state of its equipment and lack of funding as frustrating efforts to make running water available to residents.
Hwange Local Board secretary, Ndumiso Mdlalose, said following their appeal to government, an inter-ministerial team was dispatched to the mining town recently to assess the water situation.
The board is now waiting for feedback upon which they would decide on the next course of action to take.
"We have engaged government through an inter-ministerial team that visited us recently that we need water for development of our town," said Mdlalose.
Some of the suburbs in Hwange such as Number 1, Number 3, Chibondo and Railways have been without running water for years.
Once in a while, the local authority has been forced to dispatch water bowsers to supply residents with the precious liquid.
As a result of the water shortages, some of the residents are fetching water from Deka River, which is heavily polluted.
Some are even scouring streams that cut across the coal mining town, exposing themselves to many health hazards.
Besides enduring scorching heat without water, the majority of residents now use the bush to relieve themselves, which is further polluting the environment.
"It's no longer an issue to see people queuing for water at public taps or bowsers. One worrying factor is that we are sitting on a health time bomb because people now mostly use the bush to relieve themselves because of lack of running water," said Hwange Residents Association chairman, Lucky Daka.