25 January 2013

Zambia: What Happened to House Numbers?

LUSAKA is a fast growing city with new buildings being constructed on every space available which includes shopping malls, housing units and office blocks.

People have continued investing in constructing and expanding houses at a rapid pace, a situation which has brought about a lot of problems.

With this expansion, comes a lot of disorder in street names and house numbering resulting from a lack of clear understanding of the legal processes needed.

Council officials allocating land illegally and lack of clarification when buying property or land are some of the factors that have contributed to the numerous problem.

With urbanisation on the increase, this problem continues to be particularly acute in some neighborhoods creating unprecedented predicament in urban areas.

For instance, in Kamwala and Libala townships, it would be very difficult for one to locate a house by name of street or house number in the event of a fire, medical emergency or when a crime is reported.

Illogic house numbering or nothing at all, has affected health care delivery, heightened the level of crime causing less potential when saving lives.

Emergency response groups such as the police and fire fighters face challenges in locating some areas when a crime or fire is reported.

Lives and property have been lost previously because the emergency team could not locate the place on time due to the lack of street names or house numbers.

The Zambia Police Service is equipped with many tools of which one of them is a detailed map of designated areas where house numbers are imperative for quick reference.

Police deputy inspector general, Solomon Jere said the police receives emergency calls from the public but it was a challenge to reach the scene due to poor or no street names or house numbers.

"The cops are eager to attend to the calls and cannot locate these places because they are given directions like bwelani pafupi nachimutengo cha marubeni, (come near a mulberry tree)" he said.

Dr Jere said many people underestimate the importance of house numbers in regards to deliveries, visitors and emergency services.

He said the numbers play a vital role in not only saving lives but also delivering services.

Dr Jere appealed to the council to give them new information on names and areas they have been built to make work easier for the police and encouraged people in need to identify landmarks such as churches, bars, clinics among other places.

Lusaka City Council assistant public relations manager, Habeenzu Mulunda said there was need for individuals buying land from private owners to verify and consult with the authorities before raising structures.

Mr Mulunda urged the residents in Lusaka to register with the council and cooperate to avoid confusion or wrangles that would result from land scams as some people get swindled.

"These kinds of problems are common with cadres, people who buy land from individuals and wanting to build in a haste without seeking advice from the council first. We cannot entirely blame the people but laws as well," Mr Mulunda said.

He said the Town and Country Planning Act, is an old law that reflected colonial type of law and any structure built outside this law was deemed illegal where as the Housing Statutory Improvement Act covers peri-urban areas.

Mr Mulunda said there was need to review the Act.

"The two laws conflict each other and recommendations are being made in order to come up with one law through the Ministry of Local Government and Housing," he said.

Mr Mulunda said land, especially in Lusaka has become scarce and that a number of demolitions were conducted due to illegal occupations whereas the LCC allocates land where people could easily access water and give directions.

He is, however, pleased that some developers are now verifying the legality of their land with the council before buying land.

Mr Mulunda said the council was currently working with Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) to come up with a logical set up of structures that would give a unique number to each building in a street or area, with the intention of making it easier to locate a particular building.

ZICTA has embarked on a project aimed at addressing a national comprehensive addressing system in Zambia.

The house number is often part of a postal address the current standard system for numbering of newly created streets meant to assign odd numbers to sites on the left and even numbers to the right when facing in the direction of increasing numbers.

The project is being implemented in phases commencing with a six-month pilot phase in selected parts of Lusaka such as Northmead, Kamwala South, Kalingalinga and a village in Chongwe District.

The project would later be extended to Livingstone, upon successful completion of the pilot phase, the project would later be extended to the rest of the country over the next three years.

Road Development Agency (RDA) Head of public relations Loyce Saili voiced out her concerns over the number of challenges the agency faced in the construction of roads, especially in densely populated areas where houses are not properly planned or structured.

Ms Saili said the lack of adequate space for construction of roads as well as construction for diversions was negatively impacting on their mandate to erect roads in some townships, thus making it difficult to deliver emergency services.

"Space, or the lack of it, is one cardinal factor that has proved to be a mammoth task the RDA has to face and try to deal with whenever they

have to construct a road in the townships around the country," Ms Saili said.

Ms Saili said there was need for a coordinated approach among the LCC, public, and ZICTA in order to overcome the current problem.

It is cardinal that relevant authorities take such issues seriously because lives and property worth millions of Kwacha have been in the past been lost.

So there is indeed need to have proper numbering of houses and naming of roads or streets for easier navigation.

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