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Lusaka positioning for decongestion

DRIVING in Lusaka, especially during peak hours, is a nightmare for motorists.
This is because one has to endure long stressful hours on the roads due to congestion.
Statistics indicate that Zambia has over 780,000 cars, with Lusaka accounting for 60 percent representing about 480,000 cars.
A recent University of Zambia (UNZA) report shows that motorists lose an average of US$100 on a monthly basis due to high fuel consumption and low productivity in view of the traffic congestion in Lusaka.
Unfortunately, while the population and number of cars have been on a rapid upswing over the years, road infrastructure development has lagged behind.
Given the current traffic jams, many have raised concern and fear on what the levels would be a few more years from now.
This is because the population and number of cars keep on increasing at a very fast rate.
It is, however, heartening and assuring that Government is not sitting idly by but working to find lasting solutions to decongest Lusaka roads.
When the PF came into power in 2011, it embarked on an ambitious road infrastructure development agenda which includes the L400 project aimed at expanding and upgrading some Lusaka roads to bituminous standard. The project has since progressed to the third phase.
Last April, Government launched the US$389 million Lusaka Decongestion Project (LDP) aimed at decongesting the city by building and expanding roads, fly-over bridges and overpasses, to be done in three years by Afcons International, an Indian construction company.
The main features of the project will include among many others a new outer ring road from Kafue road (Makeni) to new Mumbwa road. It will further stretch to Lusaka West and join the Great North Road on Chikumbi Road in Kabwe.
The project will also include the creation of a Ring Road that would start from the Great East Road, through Kenneth Kaunda International Airport to the Great North Road in Chisamba district.
As a clear demonstration of relentless effort to find a lasting or rather generational solution to congestion, Government is now working towards developing a mass train.
According to Minister of Transport and Communication Brian Mushimba, a Chinese firm has expressed interest to develop the Lusaka mass train to help decongest roads in the city.
It is commendable that Government is keen on following up the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with the Chinese firm during the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC), which was held last September.
The project, which is scheduled to start next year, will be rolled out in phases. It will start with bringing traffic from all peripheral areas into the central business district (CBD) and from the CBD to the airport, while the subsequent phases will target the Kafue route.
Such initiatives should be supported because they go a long way in reducing traffic, which is a cost to doing business.
As a country, we need to learn from our past mistakes and avoid being short-sighted in our development agenda.
While congestion is already a vexing problem eating into the country’s productivity, those charged with the responsibility to plan should think 100 years ahead.
This is the only way to avoid getting trapped in foreseeable future challenges.
As a country, we need to be proactive and envisage solutions to problems before they even surface.
It is, however, comforting that the combination of the decongestion project, which includes expanding roads, fly-over bridges and overpasses, and construction of the massive electric train puts the country in a better position to deal with congestion for many years to come.
It is, therefore, hoped that those charged with responsibility to implement will do so to the best of their ability to guarantee quality works that will last for generations to come.