Is BCC using drones to identify sewer bursts?

The Claim: In the latest Council minutes, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) Director of engineering services, engineer Simela Dube claimed that the local authority uses drone technology to identify sewer bursts and hot spots areas around the City.
The Verdict: claim verdict

Claim: In the latest Council minutes, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) Director of engineering services, engineer Simela Dube claimed that the local authority uses drone technology to identify sewer bursts and hot spots areas around the City.

Bulawayo City Council (BCC) Corporate Communications Manager, Nesisa Mpofu indicated that the local authority currently owns one Mavic 2 Pro Drone that is being used across all Municipal departments mainly for data collection and processing.

“The data collection includes the collection of georeferenced photos and videos whereas the processing includes the stitching together of these photos, production of contours and also converting the data into meaningful information that can be used for analysis to assist in decision making,” said Mpofu.

“Since the City is experiencing a huge demand on the use of the drone, a number of strategies are being looked into to see how the data can be collected as quickly as possible. Some of these include the purchase of more drones, the professional training of more officers including certification and the part outsourcing of the mapping by drone of other areas of the City to complete the whole city in the shortest possible time.”

Mpofu said the drone was acquired through one of their projects, the WaterWorX project funded by Vitens Evides at the beginning of 2020.

“The objective for acquiring the drone was to help collect data in the water and sanitation problem areas. This has however been expanded to other services within the Municipality as well since they work hand in hand,” she said.

“The drone has allowed the City of Bulawayo to collect a large amount of data in a short space of time. In some cases, the places will not be accessible for example in an emergency case were an unsupported mine shaft collapsed and people were trapped under or in a bushy undeveloped area that needs to be surveyed.”

“In most cases the data can still be collected using other means like physical visitation but will take a long time. A good example is going around the City identifying sewer blockages and water leaks,” she said.

Mpofu said the sewer challenges are being faced almost citywide due to dilapidated infrastructure, vandalism, increase in the population and misuse of the sewer system.

“However, all efforts are being made to move the sewer from the door step to the various sewer treatment works. Using own funds, Council is clearing sewer chokes across the City on an-as-and-when- required basis contract. One-year contracts are currently ongoing for three contractors who have been split into different zones, two contractors on dredging and winching and the third on emptying and clearing of sand-traps across the City. These contracts are expected to be operational till March 2022,” she said.

“Over and above this strategy, Council’s own sewer teams are on the ground clearing sewers. The City is also in the process of engaging more staff and also engaging contract plumbers to assist and cater for the manpower shortages.”

Mpofu warned residents against abuse the sewer system since in most cases, objects removed from blockages should never be found in the sewer system.

Background: BCC has been struggling to render effective service resulting in unattended sewer pipe burst in the City centre and residential areas.

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