Analysis: EVANS NGOMA
LUSAKA has seen a phenomenal boom and increase in both vehicular and human traffic, which has inevitably put pressure on available infrastructure.
Just to illustrate significant comparisons and contrasts, on December 27 last year, I took a drive around Lusaka just to appreciate the goings-on in the city and surrounding residential areas. I made a few key observations.
It is rainy season and this, over the years, has brought challenges that we all know. Flooding has been caused by blocked drainages without planned and functional water harvesting methods in place.
We need water (it is life). I should hasten to say that I am happy with current efforts of constructing the Bombay drainage because it will help in addressing the water harvesting scenario.
As I drove from Chawama via the ring road, I felt humbled by the work the defence and security personnel have done in cleaning up the central business district (CBD) as it has made movements faster.
The tarred roads, too, help reduce vehicle maintenance costs, if I was to compare with five years ago when the roads were gravel.
As I approached Kamwala area on Kafue road, I could notice increase in vehicular and human traffic. I asked myself a number of questions that I have not found answers to, and it is my hope that we all can help? Why are we all coming into the CBD? Is it just a culture of getting into town to get things done? There are a number of malls like Makeni, Embassy and Cosmopolitan operating with key retail facilities, including food outlets. Is it an issue of higher prices as we go out of town to an extent that as a people, we would rather all be in town and save as much as we can?
My plan was to drive from one end of town using Lumumba Road, through COMESA market. As I approached the market, I realised that this is actually a busy area where a number of businesses are housed and people flock to do their business.
That by itself contributes to congesting the area along Lumumba Road, which is a transit route for most trucks going to the industrial areas, Copperbelt, and to other countries. As we get to City Market area by bus, vehicular and human traffic from Kanyama and Chibolya contributes to the high traffic along Lumumba Road. I then decided to turn into Freedom Way.
On this road, minibuses are offloading and loading at undesignated points primarily driven by the fact that people are there. As I approached Juldan bus station, where I had to pick up a colleague who had travelled from Mpika, I found something interesting. A group of passengers were seated, waiting for buses to load in readiness for various destinations, including Kasama, Chipata, Mongu, Lundazi, etc.
I wondered how Juldan Bus Services have their own station when all other operators are operating from Intercity Bus Terminus.
Then there was the parking issue; Juldan say they own about 12 bays. When the buses arrived from Mpika, and when the Chipata-bound came to load the passengers, people were forced to remove their cars to pave way for those buses to park.
The question is on planning; was that made as a provision for bus loading bay? Clarity on this could help, and I believe I am not the only one seeking answers.
We had no option but to move. It meant that we had lost about 15 bays and all the cars had no option but to have their hazard lights on while on the road. How can we decongest the road? Let’s make use of designated places such as Inter-city Bus Terminus for long-distance routes instead of the current scenario where some operators are in the CBD.
As I drove out, now using Cha Cha Cha Road, I approached Society Business Park and there was a huge truck trying to negotiate its way to offload stock. It took about 20 minutes to clear the way, and due to the heavy traffic that had built up, I could hear honks of evidently frustrated motorists.
How can this be managed? I am sure with the presence of a number of outlets, the issue of trucks offloading is a recurring one. What could be the way out? Can we engage mall managers? All these, I believe, are steps in finding a solution.
This is but a trip for today and I have heard a number of people dreading the town trip. I should commend the Zambia Police Service for their presence at major intersections to help control vehicular traffic.
Fast forward to December 30 last year. Unfortunately, we have an emergency, the cholera outbreak that has spread to most areas such as shanty townships. Food outlets at major shopping malls within Lusaka are also affected and the pandemic has reached crisis point.
Markets and vendors are noted as main conduits in the spread of the deadly outbreak which, unfortunately, has claimed over 60 lives.
President Edgar Lungu directed defence and security wings to help contain the spread of cholera and significant progress has since been made. Several markets have been closed, the CBD is free of vendors, and the state of the city is pleasing to the eye following the massive clean-up.
Plans are under way to construct habitable conducive market malls where all who have been in the street will now have decent places to operate from. This is noble as it will drive traffic, both human and vehicular, to a specific area. This will in turn increase potential revenue collection by the city council through market levies.
As I sought common ground through interactions as a concerned patriot, a number of questions came up, including how we can reduce town-bound movements. Can I attribute the quick spread of cholera to that?
Some observers noted that whilst we are in a crisis, we need to be level-headed and focus on a long-term solution. How do we have free-flowing drainage systems not only in the CBD but, more importantly, in townships?
What’s the best way around sanitation (pit latrines and flushable toilets)? I know for a fact that a pilot project on construction and use of flush toilets was flagged off by Government through Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) in Kalingalinga township as a way of eliminating water-borne diseases. This can be replicated around the city.
I should commend the business community for donations and pledges to assist in making our city clean, and residents for heeding calls by Government and its agencies for working together.
To decongest the city beyond the current outbreak, we all have a role to play. Government should expedite the decentralisation drive of the proposed civic centre in every constituency as this may help in decongesting the CBD.
Let’s all play our part and get the views that are coming through for a lasting solution.
The author is the founder of the BuyZed Campaign.