CBD crippled by water crisis

2015-01-26 00:00

HIGH rise buildings in Pietermaritzburg are facing crippling water shortages that have left residents without a steady supply of water for the past three months.

At least three residential buildings, Hassim Centre, Ganies Building, AEL Centre, and Midlands Hospital along East Street have been experiencing water pressure problems since October last year.

Residents have had to improvise to get the water they need each day. They buy it or draw it from the taps on the ground floor and carry it up in the elevators. Some residents are drawing water from the firefighting hoses closest to their floor.

The low water pressure means the ­water cannot be pumped above ground level in these buildings.

The residents cannot shower, cook or wash clothes.

While they complained of the conditions, many seemed to have grudgingly accepted the hardship.

While interviewing the agent ­managing the Hassim and the Ganies buildings, The Witness saw first-hand the hardship faced by tenants there. One of the surveillance cameras installed in one of the buildings revealed the plight of one tenant who was forced to carry an open bucket of water into the elevator, to take up to his flat.

Young and old have resorted to carrying the buckets in elevators or walking up 11 floors with their heavy loads if the elevators are not working.

“I have to save my water. The water I use for bathing I use to flush my toilet,” said Yasmin Leeshew, who lives in the AEL building.

“The situation is terrible … I keep containers in my house that I fill with water for when the water goes off. I have to boil that water and use it to bath or cook,” said a woman who asked only to be referred to as N. Singh. She lives in the ­Hassim Centre.

Another woman who asked to be referred to as S. Amod in the AEL building said she can only cook or wash clothes at certain times when the water is available. “Sometimes I cannot cook at all.”

Fuming directors of the buildings blamed the Msunduzi Municipality.

“They reduced the water pressure from five bars to two-and-a-half. Our pumps cannot operate on two-and-a-half bars,” said Farouk Khan, one of the directors of the AEL building.

“There has not been any explanation from the municipality of what is going on. If they had explained we could have met and decided what should be done.

“Instead they are telling me that new by-laws say I must install a pump and tanker on the ground floor to allow the water to be pumped up. Other buildings have that system and it does not work.”

Khan said the problem was affecting his business. “I get calls from tenants asking me what they should do because they have no water. I am losing tenants. Already eight people have left because they cannot stay where there is no water.”

The agent who asked not to be named said the situation was untenable. “These buildings have hundreds of tenants …

“Imagine in one flat where there are two adults and four children. If they want to use the toilets, each member will have to go down to the ground floor and get a bucket of water, use the toilet and then pour the bucket into the cistern to flush. That is no way to live.”

He said, “We are paying thousands in rates every month. Now we have to pay the water bill incurred by residents who are now using the building’s water because they do not have water,” he said.

Midlands Hospital manager Dr Douglas Ross said the hospital had experienced water problems in the past few months but had invested in water infrastructure and it was able to cope.

municipal response

MUNICIPAL spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said this was a localised problem and they were working on it.

“However, while we are trying to establish the exact reason for the low pressure problem, the buildings in question are getting the minimum pressure as per our by-laws.

“An analysis of all high rise buildings was conducted in 2011, whereby we advised certain buildings to upgrade the internal booster systems and storage facilities in line with our new pressure management plan. The majority of the high rise buildings in lower portions of the CBD have not adhered to this,” she said.

Mafumbatha said while they can boost pressure in the CBD for these high rise buildings, this inadvertently causes burst pipes that then affects larger portions of the CBD.

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