GOVERNMENT, through the Cabinet committee on civil protection, has provided funds for the reclamation of sink-holes that continue to threaten critical infrastructure in Gokwe North and South districts, an official has said. Gokwe North district administrator Mr Fortune Mupungu told Sunday News last week that reclamation work on the sink-holes was set to start “any time from now” following the provision of funds.
Mr Mupungu was, however, not in a position to reveal the amount made available, but said the money was enough to successfully carry out the reclamation exercise.
Last year Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Midlands Province Cde Jason Machaya said about $500 000 was needed to reclaim the sink-holes and prevent them from destroying infrastructure in Gokwe town.
“So far we have not done anything but work on reclaiming the gullies is set to start anytime soon now that funds have been made available. We recently received communication from Government that funds for the exercise were now available.
“I’m not yet sure how much the money is but it should be enough to carry out the exercise. We are also working with other stakeholders like EMA to see how best we can correct the situation permanently. We highlighted the urgency of the matter to Government last year and we are glad that they responded positively,” he said.
Gokwe magistrates’ court building, Government complex, Zesa offices, surrounding residential area, and other buildings are under threat from four sink-holes that have emerged in the town.
One of the sink-holes has already cut into the road from Gokwe South District Hospital to Gokwe town centre, forcing council to close the road.
A team of engineers from the Ministry of Local Government Public Works and National Housing was dispatched to the cotton farming town to assess the gravity of situation.
The team came up with recommendations of a raft of measures needed to be employed to avert danger.
Mr Mupungu said Government was looking forward to working with Gokwe Town Council on reclaiming the sink-holes.
He said work on the sink-holes would commence as soon as the funds were secured.
Previous efforts by Gokwe Town Council to reclaim the sink-holes in 2013 proved fruitless as they have continued to grow especially during the rain season.
The ever-growing sink-holes have caused panic among Gokwe residents who fear for their lives.
People, who use buildings at Gokwe Centre, are living in constant fear that their buildings might one day be swallowed by earth owing to the sinkholes.
Mr Isaac Munemo, who runs a restaurant in Gokwe town, said: “Things seem to be getting worse and worse with each day and the fear is growing just about at the same rate as the gullies.
“Everyday you wake up thinking that you will go to work to find your property swallowed by the earth. I feel there is a need to urgently attend to this challenge before it becomes a disaster.”
His sentiments were echoed by Mrs Susan Makore, who said the sink-holes not only posed a threat to infrastructure but to human life as well.
“Imagine if one of the buildings is to collapse while people are in there. It will be a disaster. There is a need to avert the situation before it really turns into something regrettable,” she said.
Meanwhile, infrastructure, which was destroyed by floods which hit Gokwe North District last year, is yet to be rehabilitated due to a lack of funds.
The district needs more than $800 000 to rehabilitate roads, bridges and schools that were damaged by torrential rains which pounded the area in January and February last year.
A total of 11 bridges and nine schools in the district were damaged by floods last year with reports that three more bridges were swept away by floods this year.
The 11 bridges, four on major roads in the district, were completely destroyed and require reconstruction, cutting communication between the district and other parts of the province.
Sink-holes are a recurrent problem in Gokwe North and Gokwe South districts owing to the Kalahari type of soils found in the two districts.
Sink-holes are classified as a geologic hazard that can cause extensive damage to structures and roads resulting in costly repairs.
They even threaten water supplies by draining unfiltered water from streams, lakes and wetlands directly into the underground water supply.
Sink-holes can appear to have opened overnight, but the majority of them evolve over time, developing long before any surface evidence is detected.