21 May 2012

Zambia: Water Initiative Renews Hope for Kaunda Square Residents

THE common and widely held view that water is life is set to lose its meaning unless the K3 billion water network rehabilitation project in Lusaka's Kaunda Square meets its objectives of improving portable water to the residents.

The residents in Kaunda Square Stage One have faced numerous challenges in accessing adequate water and sanitation services with authorities seemingly taking long to come to their rescue.

While the rainy season provides additional water to many living things, it is the worst period for many residents in the township as they are subjected to sewer flooding.

The risks of contracting waterborne diseases such as cholera also rises as the general environment equally becomes an enemy to human habitation.

For a long time now the residents in Kaunda Square have talked about the low water pressure, especially during the dry season which had resulted in difficulties to allow them effectively flush their lavatories.

"The situation is worse than what you think," said Arnold Banda one of the residents in the area.

"While we have the low pressure during the dry season, the rainy season comes with another disaster because that is when we have blockages."

Mr Banda said it was hard for him and his family to appreciate that water was life because of the difficulties they were going through to enhance proper sanitation and access sufficient water.

Some residents have been forced to seek alternative water sources away from the township to cushion the crisis but such arrangements have come at a cost.

"This is not easy because for you to manage, then you need to adjust your programmes," said another resident, Florence Chiyani, a civil servant.

"At times I have been forced to go late for work because of the water problem."

She said the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) has neglected the township because most of the water networks in the area had outlived its usefulness.

Ms Chiyani noted that for a long time now, the area had continued to face numerous challenges in access adequate water while at the same time exposed to poor sanitation during the rainy season.

The status of the water infrastructure in the township is as poor as its service to the residents. The concerns and anger by people is therefore justified.

According to the LWSC, the water supply net work in the area is composed of galvanised iron pipes laid in the 1960s and have deteriorated due to old age and vandalism.

Increased human activities have had its toll as well. With poor planning and lack of guidance from the local authority, some people have ended up constructing houses and wall fences on top of the water network.

However, the predicament by the people in Kaunda Square Stage One could soon become a thing of the past unless the LWSC fails with its water network rehabilitation programme in the area.

The programme which has been dubbed Water Network Rehabilitation Project for Kaunda Square Stage One, seeks to rehabilitate the water infrastructure in the area and ensure that the residents have adequate commodity.

It is a K3 billion water project that would be implemented in two phases where more than 18,000 people are expected to benefit.

The programme which has already started was officially launched recently with an assurance from the company and the Government on the commitment to provide adequate water to the people not only in Kaunda Square but also in other areas.

LWSC acting director, Wilfred Siame said the project would help in the placement of a 13.2 km supply network including water pipes, fire hydrants, valves and chambers.

"Most you are well aware of the challenges that the residents here in Kaunda Square have had to deal with various challenges, including inadequate water supply and constant sewer blockages," he said.

"It has been a constant struggle for the water utility company to deal with these issues due to the poor state of the current water supply network which has completely deteriorated."

Mr Siame however noted that much of the water supplied to the area was lost through leakages along the network resulting in very little or no water available to the residents.

He said the water utility firm hoped that the rehabilitation of the water network would provide the required quantities of water for flushing of the sewer network and consequently prevent the sewer overflow.

Although one would argue that the sanitation problem was not unique to Kaunda Square Stage One, the company believed that the network that has been earmarked for rehabilitation is the worst affected.

The problem has not spared the pupils at Kaunda Square Basic School and it is hoped that the completion of the project would have greater impact on them in that it would help to enhance improved hygiene at the institution.

The same goes to the churches that have faced similar challenges while traders at the market would be assured of high hygienic standards at their trading area.

The Government has continuously emphasised the need to provide adequate water as it promotes good health and the general wellbeing of the communities across the country.

Local Government and Housing Minister Nkandu Luo who graced the launch of the project said the project reflected the desire of the Patriotic Front (PF) Government as enshrined in the party manifesto.

"I am sure that the project will bring joy to the people of Kaunda Square because they will have water. I want to confirm what our manifesto says, which is to bring decency in the welfare of the people," she said.

"As we campaigned, we underestimated the damage caused to this country. Population has grown and a lot of infrastructure has been damaged without rehabilitation or constructing new ones."

Prof Luo who is also Member of Parliament for Munali, where the project is being carried out, said she was however not happy with the performance of many water utility firms in the country as they had allegedly failed to perform.

While old age of the water network is partly the reason to blame for the dilapidated infrastructure, the minister was alive to the fact that vandalism had equally played its part.

"This is your property and you should guard it jealously. We don't want a situation where we put these pipes today then tomorrow they are stolen because then there will be no need to put them," Prof Luo said.

Area councillor Robinson Kalota agreed with the minister and pledged to work closely with the security wings as well as the water utility company in ensuring that the new infrastructure was protected.

Mr Kalota urged the residents to be vigilant and report to police anyone who was found to be tampering with the water pipes.

It undoubtedly clear that the water and sanitation problem in Kaunda Square are wide and large although not insurmountable.

The new water project which is being implemented under the sanitation fund comes as a fundamental step in the service provision of the LWSC and a relief to the residents of Kaunda Square Stage One.

However, although the project is set to improve water supply, hygiene conditions and the general lifestyles of the people, it is too early to celebrate because more is yet to be done.

Admittedly, the commitments by the Government and the LWSC to provide adequate water supply and general sanitation service would be in vain if the beneficiaries fail to play their part.

The Kaunda Square Water Network Rehabilitation project constitutes a major component in Government's efforts to improve the water supply and sanitation.

This will consequently complement the on-going development efforts in the country for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

As the project is being implemented, the residents would do well to become the enemies of vandalism and theft by helping the police to guard the new infrastructure.

Unless that is done, the old adage of "water is life", which has been adopted by many water utility firms as their theme, will remain meaningless.

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