11 January 2013

Zambia: Seeking Solutions to Lusaka Floods

FLOODS have become an annual problem in Zambia and Government is spending huge sums of money to address this seemingly unending problem.

Lusaka has been hit the hardest by this problem because of numerous factos among them blocked storm drains as a result of solid waste.

Illegal settlements where half the city's population lives mostly in ramshackle and unsafe structures without proper sanitation are among other factors that have contributed to flooding in the capital city.

Apart from the well known fact of flooding, the uncollected heaps of garbage is another another source of the mess.

The issue of cholera outbreaks in these areas of Lusaka is definitely looming large and is also part of the problem.

In outlying townships the issue of inadequate drainage systems and garbage are synonymous.

Taking a stroll in these high density areas reveals alarming levels of solid waste accumulation.

There is also a geographical aspect where indiscriminate cutting down of trees affects the rain water system thus causing floods.

This is common in areas where bridges and roads have been washed away due to fast currents.

Trees prevent floods and bring soil together to prevent soil erosion,they also act as wind-breaks and stabilise the the forest.

But in the case of Lusaka it is entirely blocked by storm drains and illegal settlements that have contributed to the annual floods.

So what is the solution?

The Lusaka central business area has a well constructed drainage system which is not serving its intended purpose because it has been turned into a waste pits hence causing the blockage and subsequent flooding.

For Instance, in Kamwala one would not dispute that much of the trading takes place in undesignated locations and the local authorities seem not to mind.

This is one of the factors that has greatly contributed to blockages of the drainage system in the city as vendors who are apparently squatting on almost every street dispose of waste generated from their trade indiscriminately.

The generation of waste is evidently on the increase daily as it has become a well known fact that no one would want to pay trading tax hence resorting to mobile street vending.

The aftermath of heavy downpour leaves so much of a sorry sight as traders would have rather dump the solid waste anyhow on the streets in an effort to escape the rains.

Most of this waste is plastic and so it find its way into the storm drainages thereby blocking it and causing the floods that have now become a common sight in the once beautiful city.

LCC sees this entire problem as one created out of an attitude problem arising from carelessness on the part of individuals and feels the negative repercussions are hitting back on the same people who are causing the blockage of drainages.

Assistant public relations manager Mulunda Habenzu said the issue of blocked drainages should not be blamed on the council but individual citizen's activities.

Mr Habenzu said the drainage problem in the city cannot be solved if the attitudes of the people do not change.

However, on the way forward or if there was any lasting solution to the current problem in sight, Mr Habenzu said Government and the American Government have partnered through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) project aimed at improving water, sanitation and drainage.

He said the investment master plan which covers a 25-year period for Lusaka Province was developed by the Government with the support of MCC. It outlines the investment of about US $4 billion that is needed for Lusaka to meet the projected growth of five million residents by 2035.

Mr Habenzu said investment in infrastructure water supply, sanitation and drainage infrastructure is a major intervention for Lusaka residents.

"The investment of the Government of the Republic of Zambia in partnership with the American government through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has come at the right time in the history of this city," Mr Habenzu said.

Mr Habenzu, however, said the project will not solve all the problems of Lusaka City as it was in the short term.

Some of the townships to be worked on under the project include the entire Kamwala residential area and Kabwata Site and Service.

Lusaka District commissioner Ashwell Kampengele said the issue of flooding in the densely populated areas as well as unplanned settlements will continue unless people change their mindsets and relocate to safer grounds.

He said Government will not continue spending money on evacuating people from places that have been identified to be flood prone areas .

"We cannot continue spending money on an issue that we have talked about previously, those who think Government will come to their rescue this rainy season better think again because we will not come to their aid," he said.

Mr Kampengele said the allocation of funds should now be channeled towards sustainable development like constrcution and unblocking of drainages in planned and legal settlement.

Though LCC blames traders for these woes, the local authority ought to be in the forefront in ensuring that garbage is collected promptly in townships.

With increased funding from the central Government, the public will not take kindly to any excuses by the council its their failure to implement developmental projects and live up to the expectations of the people.

In fact, most of the people who are found on most of these streets in the central business district of Lusaka doing their daily business come from places where rules on maintaining proper sanitation seem to have eluded them.

This is surely quite a puzzle that keeps resurfacing every year but seemingly not yielding any results.

Trade on the streets is on the increase as many have confessed that unless a statutory order is issued for them to vacate the streets, they will continue enjoying the benefits of a 'tax free zone', making the issue of floods an annual anthem.

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