VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
ZAMBIA is urbanising rapidly with more people migrating from rural areas to the urban.
Studies by the United Nations indicate that there will be more people living in urban centres than rural areas by the year 2030.
And this development, according to Devolution Trust Fund (DTF) committee chairperson David Zulu, will result in a huge challenge for water utilities in terms of increased demand on their services.
“The majority of these people migrating may find themselves in low-income urban communities, hence the need to support water utilities,” Mr Zulu said.
The DTF established by Government to help water utilities improve water supply and sanitation for peri-urban and low-cost urban areas funded the Kabanana Water Supply Project.
The project was funded under the DTF general fund to improve water supply in Kabanana, which will translate in improved living conditions and promotion of health and hygiene through adequate, clean water supply to residents.
The project, which was commissioned recently, is benefitting a population of about 22, 000 people in Kabanana and the surrounding areas.
Kabanana township has had inadequate water supply because the systems that existed in the area could not sustain the growing population.
The area also had very few water connections that could not satisfy the growing population in the community.
Residents had to walk long distances to fetch water and the water problem kept on worsening due to erratic water supply.
This is now a thing of the past because through the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC), a 500 cubic metres elevated water tank was rehabilitated to cater for the growing population in the area.
The distribution network was extended to cover other areas that were not serviced before and it also includes household connections.
“We can only appeal to residents in Kabanana to take care of the water project as vandalising this infrastructure will certainly negate the huge gains made in accessing safe and clean drinking water,” Mr Zulu adviced .
The DTF has been supporting CUs since 2003 in financing projects to ensure equitable delivery of services to all within their service areas.
This support has resulted in 1.2 million people having access to sustainable water supply in the peri-urban and low-cost areas of Zambia.
The Kabanana water project is one of the 83 projects financed by DTF since 2003.
LWSC managing director Sylvester Mashamba said access to clean and safe drinking water is a key instrument for fighting poverty and acceleration of socio-economic development.
“This project will not only contribute in a major way to our effort of increasing people’s access to water supply from the current levels, but also improve commercial viability for the company,’’ he said.
The lack of adequate clean water in most communities is a huge burden to all.
This is because the country loses about 1.3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to water-borne diseases and statistics point to the fact that Lusaka has the highest number of cases during such outbreaks.
Access to clean water allows individuals to put their time and effort into realising their dreams instead of simply surviving.
According to Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection Minister Lloyd Kaziya, the Kabanana water project is aimed at improving access to water and the health of residents.
The water project, Mr Kaziya said, is a reflection of Government’s commitment to ensure adequate access to clean and safe drinking water for the less privileged people in peri-urban areas.
Women in the area would be relieved from the burden of fetching water and taking care of the sick following illnesses due to water borne related diseases.
Mandevu member of Parliament Jean Kapata is happy that adequate water supply will enhance the standard of living of people in her constituency.
She appealed to residents to take good care of the facility to ensure durability.
While residents consider themselves lucky to receive water, the water utility is appealing to them to pay for the service and also to report faults to the LWSC.
“We are faced with the challenge of non-revenue (not paid for) water estimated at 48 percent through leakages from dilapidated pipelines and non-payment of bills by some customers,” Mr Mashamba said.
Non-revenue water costs LWSC millions of Kwacha which could be invested in expansion of water supply to areas currently not serviced.
Most water utilities in the country lose about 50 percent of their production through physical leakages, water theft and inaccurate billing.
The viability of utilities is therefore compromised. If the water loss is reduced, service coverage could be extended to needy areas.
It is also the responsibility of LWSC and other utilities countrywide to develop strategies on how to reduce non-revenue water to economical levels.
“I also urge residents to work with the utility, to pay bills and report any leaking pipes or vandalism to the infrastructure to LWSC,” Ms Kapata further cautioned.
Residents, who could not hide their joy over the provision of water, pledged to take care of the facility and to always pay their water bills.