DOREEN NAWA, Lunga
THEY gathered in dry wetlands in the South East of Lake Bangweulu in Lunga district on the Kasoma Lunga Island in Luapula Province to catch a glimpse of the helicopters that had carried President Lungu and his entourage.
That afternoon, people of Lunga abandoned their various activities and braved the dusty from landing helicopters.
For them, October 22, 2015 was a joyous day because it was the first time in over 30 years that a sitting head of State was visiting the area.
â€œWe feel honoured and blessed to have you [President Lungu] visit us today. The last time we were visited by the head of State is over 30 years ago. We felt neglected and abandoned but today, we are so excited that you have taken time from your schedule to come and see us,â€ Chief Kasoma Lunga said.
Chief Kasoma Lunga had a list of needs that he wants addressed by Government in order to change the face of the district.
Top on the list was the clearing of the canals. The water passages are blocked because of silt and weed.
â€œWe are crippled when our canals are blocked with the weeds. Our urgent request would be the clearing of the canals here in the district,â€ Chief Kasoma Lunga said.
Lunga, which was hitherto part of Samfya district, is an island on Lake Bangweulu and Luapula River, and accessibility is a challenge. The district is only accessible by air and by water.
What took the President to Lunga was a hands-on check of developmental activities taking place in the district.
Lunga is one of the newly created districts in the province. It was declared a district by late President Michael Sata soon after he was elected President in 2011. The district comprises five islands namely, Kasomalunga, Kalimankonde, Nsamba, Bwalya Mponda and Chafye.
And President Lungu reiterated Governmentâ€™s commitment to develop the district.
The President says he has seen the challenges on his own and will ensure that the canals in the area are dredged and deepened to allow bigger boats reach the area.
â€œI came here shortly before the January 20, 2015 presidential election asking for your votes, and today, I am here to check on the progress of the projects I promised you during the campaigns,â€ President Lungu said.
President Lungu said he had seen the challenges on his own and will ensure that the canals are dredged and deepened to allow bigger boats reach the area.
The head of State observed that while some projects such as construction of a police camp and post office have progressed others have slowed down. He however promised to engage contractors through his special assistant for Project Monitoring Lucky Mulusa who was part of his delegation.
While in Lunga, President Lungu took a swipe at the provincial administration for failing to organise fuel for the dredgers.
He advised Luapula Province Minister Benson Kapaya and his permanent secretary Boniface Chimbwali to be able to speak with relevant offices in order to develop the area.
The President said he is just but a captain who depends on other officers around to steer up development.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t have to take me to visit certain areas for development to take place. Zambia is too big. When we fail to deliver, we fail all of us not the President alone because I am just one person who has officers all over Zambia to see to it that we push for development. I cannot be everywhere to monitor what is happening. You are my eyes here,â€ President Lungu said.
The President also paid a courtesy call on five chiefs in the area representing the five islands. The five chiefs included Senior Chief Kalimankonde, Chief Kasomalunga, Chief Nsamba, Bwalya Mponda and sub-chief Mweshi respectively.
Speaking when he held a meeting with 4 chiefs of Lunga district, President Lungu expressed concern that only 40 boreholes have been earmarked for the district out of the 920 set for Luapula and Central provinces.
He assured the traditional leadership that he will again visit the district in November with some diplomats accredited to Zambia to appreciate the situation and see how they can help.
â€œMore developmental projects are coming to Lunga, one of them is the construction of health posts which will soon commence,â€ President Lungu said.
Area member of Parliament Emerine Kabanshi, thanked the President for visiting the area.
â€œLunga district which is home to my constituency, Luapula has potential to contribute to the countryâ€™s economy. Besides the water, it also has unique wildlife species. We are so grateful and we ask you to help us market our potential,â€ she said.
The Bangweulu wetlands that houses Lunga district are renowned to be the haven for numerous avian species and other wild life species. Unique to the wetlands are the beautiful Black Lechwe and the Shoebill Stock.
Lunga was not the only area the President visited during his two days in Luapula Province. His final destination was Mwense district where he commissioned two water projects at a cost of K103.5 million in the province.
The two projects are the Luapula Province groundwater development project phase 3 funded by Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) and the Lukwesa-Kashiba piped water scheme funded by Government.
Commissioning the projects at Chikonkolo village in Chief Lukwesaâ€™s area, President Lungu reaffirmed Governmentâ€™s commitment to transforming the lives of rural people through service delivery.
â€œLack of clean and safe drinking water and better sanitation services is one of the key factors contributing to poverty in the country and the world over. Low access to water has resulted in waterborne-related diseases and deaths in some parts of the country,â€ President Lungu said.
President Lungu said the modernisation of water supply and sanitation facilities is part of the contribution towards the attainment of the Vision 2030.
â€œAccess to clean and safe drinking water, and better sanitation services and good health have potential to spur the countryâ€™s socio-economic development,â€ President Lungu said.
The project will involve the drilling of 176 boreholes complete with hand pumps and 5 pipe water schemes in six districts in the province.
The six districts include Mansa, Mwense, Chipili, Nchelenge, Milenge, and Chembe, respectively.
After years of neglecting infrastructure needs, Lunga can now boost of the first ever administration offices and other supporting infrastructure in the district.
Similarly, infrastructure has suddenly become a major priority for Lunga, Mwense and the rest of the country as evidenced from the projects visited and commissioned by the President.
DOREEN NAWA, Lunga