Editor's Comment

Floods can be overcome

PEOPLE wade through water from Mumana stream, which flooded Great East Road in Lusaka yesterday after a downpour. PICTURE: ANGELA NTENTABUNGA

THE rainy season is not yet at its peak but the destruction it has caused so far is severe, so severe in fact that there is a high risk of a serious shortage of food.
There has been flooding in Gwembe district in Southern Province, Mambwe in Eastern Province, Chilubi in Northern Province and many other parts of Lusaka.
Floods have caused the displacement of people, the destruction of infrastructure such as roads, bridges and houses, as well as the washing away of crops, livestock and damaging houses.
The destruction of infrastructure, crops and livestock is an economic cost to the country while the displacement of people has caused a humanitarian crisis.
Given the magnitude of the destruction caused by the floods so far, there is need for more collaborative efforts by global and local partners to ease the immediate challenges.  Of even greater need, though, is finding and implementing long term solutions.
The people in flood-prone areas require emergency aid that includes tents for shelter, blankets, food and medicines.
There is also need to prevent the outbreak of waterborne diseases, hence water treatment chemicals such as chlorine should be part of the relief.
For those who lose their crops, livestock and homes, the provision of support to rebuild their homes and plant new crops is necessary.
The Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) and its partners such as the Zambia Red Cross Society (ZRCS) have been active on the ground but the challenges seem to be growing by the day.
They need more support to be able to continuing responding quickly to distress calls.
That is why President Edgar Lungu yesterday called on global partners to come to the country’s aid through disaster risk strategies such as reduction through relief food distribution, even social cash transfer, to cushion the impacts.
While global partners may be required, there is need for local solutions to the current crisis caused by floods.
So, apart from global partners, there is need for local companies and individuals to come to the aid of Government.
The Church, religious bodies and civil society have generally been helpful but their support should not only continue, but also woven around strategies that would mitigate the impact of these natural threats.
Beyond the humanitarian aid, early warning systems that enable people in flood-prone areas to move to safer areas need to be put in place.
This requires reliable weather forecasting technology that makes timely and accurate predictions of flooding.
In addition, building houses that can stand flooding so that relocated families can return without needing to start rebuilding must be part of the solution in the case of those who choose to stay behind in case of a permanent relocation programme.
The country should look at sustainable solutions to the floods. For instance, floods may be an opportunity for employment through mechanisms such as rainwater harvesting.
Rather than complain about water scarcity during the drier months, this is the perfect opportunity to conserve the excess water for future use.
Besides, Zambia is not short of strategic plans to respond to floods, an off- shoot of climate change.
The country crafted the National Adaptation Programme of Action of 2007 as well as the National Policy on Climate Change of 2016 and these make reference to water stress (too little or too much water), including flooding.
These instruments are being implemented through the construction of drainages on the roads.
This includes the construction of climate resilient roads like the one from Choma to Dundumwezi in Kalomo to Namwala.
These are among the various policies and strategies in place to help Government to respond to such unfortunate events.
Given that floods are here to stay, Government, through the DMMU and ZRCS, should continue building climate resilient communities.
These should be part of the permanent solutions to help both people in urban and rural areas to overcome challenges posed by floods and other negative climatic conditions.
For instance, there are people still living in places which are flooded every rainy season. Measures should be put in place to permanently relocate such communities to safer places.
There is no longer justification for people to continue living in what they may term ancestral places where their forefathers were born.
Climatic change is real and people should come to terms with realities by doing what is right for themselves.
While Government may move in now with the necessities such as food, medicines and shelter, there is need to avoid the recurrence of the same.
There is need to adhere to the Town Planning Act. Some of the floods in Lusaka are a result of blocked drainages and residential areas wall fenced without providing recourse for water.
For urban areas, the local authority planning departments should be ahead of such eventualities.
For instance, the local authority has been sitting on the Lusaka Master Plan designed by the Japanese almost two decades ago.
Time is now to actualise such plans.

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