MELODY MUPETA, Kitwe
KITWE is one of the industrious towns on the Copperbelt with a fast growing population, resulting in the mushrooming of unplanned settlements.
According to data by the Central Statistical Office (CSO), as at 2010, Kitwe had a population of 517 543 from 376, 124 recorded in 2000.
The population increase in the mining town has seen new residential areas being opened up for development, and people building houses though without water and sewer systems in place.
In Kitwe’s old unplanned settlements such as Mulenga, Kapoto and Kamakonde, people without access to piped water, resort to digging shallow wells close to pit-latrines, therefore contaminating ground water.
This has been posing a health risk to the residents, promoting Government to embark on an ambitious project to improve water and sanitation services in both unplanned settlements and new residential areas. This is how the Nkana Water Supply and Sanitation Project (NWSSP) was born.
With phase one already done, Government has sourced US$200 million from the International Co-operation Bank (ICB) of China for the implementation of phase two of the NWSSP in an effort to improve water infrastructure in Kitwe, Kalulushi and Chambishi.
The project, which is being implemented by Nkana Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC) will see new water and sewer pipes installed and new distribution centres built in the three towns.
The residents have expressed happiness with the government decision to source funds for the improvement of water infrastructure in Kitwe.
They feel the project will help alleviate water blues and give them access to clean, safe drinking water.
Abraham Kunda, 34, a resident of Chipata township explained that most people in his community use shallow wells because they have no access to piped water.
“Here in Chipata township, we do not have piped water. We rely on shallow wells, which are usually contaminated with faecal matter, especially during the rainy season,” he said.
Mr Kunda said residents are prone to waterborne diseases because they consume contaminated water from the shallow wells.
He is hopeful that with the implementation of the NWSSP, the township will have access to clean piped water.
Another resident, Betty Lungu, 65, expressed happiness that Government has sourced funds for the improvement of water infrastructure in Kitwe.
Ms Lungu said access to clean water in Chipata is a challenge, and that the NWSC need to prioritise the installation of water pipes in areas that do not have piped water.
She said the people of Chipata also need flushable toilets to minimise the use of pit latrines, which usually contaminate ground water.
Meanwhile, Juliet Musonda, a trader at Chikwepe market in Kamakonde feels that all the townships in the mining town of Kitwe should have access to piped water.
Ms Musonda said during the dry season, when wells dry up, the people of Kamakonde walk long distances in search of clean and safe drinking water.
“When its October, our shallow wells get dry. This means we have to walk long distances just to get to the nearest source of water,” she said.
And Ladson Yambwe, 55, a resident of Kapoto, appealed to NWSC to quickly implement the NWSSP for people in the area to have access to clean safe water.
Mr Yambwe said Kapoto has a lot of shallow wells and diarrheal diseases are quite common in the area due to consumption of contaminated water.
He said there is need for NWSC to consider installing water pipes in Kapoto under phase two of the NWSSP to improve public health.
Initially Government had sourced US$63 million from the Africa Development Bank (AFDB) for the implementation of phase one of the NWSSP, which then was targeting expansion of the existing water infrastructure in Kitwe, Kalulushi and Chambishi.
NSWC public relations officer, Agness Mpalile explained that under this project, new water and sewer pipes were installed in the townships of Kitwe and the surrounding towns.
Ms Mpalile said a new water treatment plant was built in Nkana East while a water distribution centre was installed in Kalulushi.
“Under phase one of the Nkana Water Supply and Sanitation Project, we were able to replace the water and sewer lines. We also built toilets in Buchi and Ipusukilo townships,” she said.
With funds now available for the implementation of phase two of the project, the rehabilitation of water infrastructure in the three towns will continue.
Under the programme, new water and sewer pipes will be installed in Racecourse, Ipusukilo, Mulenga, Kawama and Chipata townships of Kitwe, where people depend on wells for water supply.
Ms Mpalile also explained that water and sewer systems will be installed in new residential areas in Kitwe.
She said sewer lines will also be installed in townships that do not have facilities to enable residents build flushable toilets.
Ms Mpalile said under phase two of the NWSSP, the water utility firm will not focus on the installation of toilets, but will only install sewer lines to enable residents to install toilets of their choice.
And NWSC director-engineering Cliff Bwalya said the project is aimed at improving sanitation and the supply of clean water in Kitwe, Kalulushi and Chambishi.
Mr Bwalya said the project also aims at improving sanitation coverage to peril-urban townships.
Furthermore, the project will involve the expansion and rehabilitation of water treatment plants and sewer lines.
“The second phase of the Nkana Water Supply and Sanitation Project will focus on rehabilitating dilapidated water and sewer infrastructure. This will help us improve the supply of clean water and sanitation in our service areas,” he said.
Mr Bwalya said feasibility studies on the project have already started and the work is likely to start soon.
And Kitwe district commissioner Binwell Mpundu expressed happiness that Government has sourced funds for the implementation of phase two of the NWSSP, which he said will greatly help to improve water supply in Kitwe.
Residents are hopeful that the project will bring to an end, the problem of water rationing in Kitwe.