There is an old furrow in Kabwe, a remnant of the town's oldest pieces of mining infrastructure, which was once used to ferry toxic and lead runoff from the closed local mining pits. But in recent years, the 'Ingalande' as the important Kabwe Main Canal is popularly known, has been blocked due to flooding and overgrown vegetation. Moreover, some members of the community are deposing waste in the canal, making it difficult for the flow of lead runoff and storm water.
The canal stretches through five densely populated townships in Kabwe namely Makululu, Kasanda, Railways, Chowa and Waya. Some of the residents described the canal as one of the oldest pieces of infrastructure in Kabwe whose beauty and purpose continues to be unnoticed.
One resident, Kennedy Wasase said, "The Ngalande is quite an old infrastructure that has been there for a long time and my parents also found it. I have grown up seeing the long drainage and it has mostly been used as an illegal garbage dump."
Kennedy said the canal is one of the remarkable historical architectural works that has not been considered to be important, He said most people do not understand its function.
"The drainage is a beautiful historical architectural piece of work and it has been in existence since time in memorial. This is why it is critical that it is not completely destroyed," he said.
Kennedy said it is unfortunate that most communities in Kabwe do not understand the importance of the canal whose function is to ferry toxic runoff to avoid the community from being exposed to lead contamination.
"Most of the people do not understand the importance of keeping the canal in a good state so that people are not exposed to lead poisoning," he said.
The Kabwe Main Canal is a conduit for storm water containing hazardous material and waste from the closed mining areas. It is for this reason that Government, through the Zambia Mining and Environmental and Remediation Project (ZMERIP), has come with key infrastructure interventions which include rehabilitation of canal that will facilitate effective flow of storm water to avoid exposing the surrounding communities to lead contaminants. ZMERIP Environmental and Social Safeguard Specialist Thresah Musongo Nabuyanda said the canal is prone to overgrowth and flooding on an annual basis. She warned that this results in overflow of hazardous material into residential backyards. Ms Nabuyanda said rehabilitation of the canal is aimed at addressing the environmental and health impact of lead contamination in Kabwe.
Ms Nabuyanda said this during the Zambia Mining and Environmental public disclosure meetings for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and engineering designs for the rehabilitation of the canal recently. She said the rehabilitation of the canal is expected to improve the hydraulic flow of storm water and facilitate effective flood control for public health and safety. Ms Nabuyanda noted that the rehabilitation works will commence early next year and will take a period of one year. Kabwe town, long known for being endowed with zinc and lead deposits, has had a perennial lead poisoning problem. This arises from the industrial fumes emanating from its long-term mining pollution. As a result, Government, through ZMERIP infrastructure intervention, has engaged SMEC to develop detailed engineering design for the rehabilitation and concrete lining of the Kabwe Main Canal. SMEC engineer Peter Kabalata said the rehabilitation works will include removal of vegetation, dredging, concrete lining and landscaping of the canal corridor to improve the flow of water and reduce flooding which exposes the surrounding areas to lead contamination.
Mr Kabalata explained that the canal is a conduit for storm water containing hazardous materials and wastes from the closed Kabwe mine and traverses five townships. He said it is unfortunate that the canal has been turned into a dump site. He said this is the reason why the canal has been blocked, making it easy to be contaminated by lead and later, this makes the lead to find its way into the surrounding community. "The rehabilitation of the canal will include removal of the hazardous waste that have accumulated and it will also have additional crossing points," he said.
Mr Kabalata also assured the communities that there will be no resettlement or destruction of houses during the construction period which is slated for next year. Some of the ward councillors from Makukulu, Kasanda and Katondo also attended the public disclosure meetings. The councillors urged the residents to cooperate with Government to ensure a successful implementation of the works. They appealed to ZMERIP to consider the local communities first during project implementation. Makululu Ward Councillor Collins Musonda said community members must take ownership of the canal because it is an important infrastructure that belongs to them and its existence is for the good of the people. Makululu resident Moreen Mbao urged the Government to ensure that the
project includes intermediate drainages with screens to feed into the main canal.
She said the screens will prevent debris from residential areas from going into the canal during the rainy season.
Elias Ngwira of Nkrumah University in Kabwe urged the ZEMRIP to ensure that the canal has specific crossing points for pedestrians and cyclists.
The canal is one such important architectural piece of work to the people of Kabwe. The drainage is designed to carry away potentially contaminating material that, if left close to households, could become a source of
serious sickness among local communities. That's why the ZEMRIP infrastructure intervention of rehabilitating
the canal is vital to save people's lives from lead contamination as well as exposure to other harmful substances.
Additionally, the canal can also boost tourism in Kabwe.