Analysis: PATSON PHIRI
FOR close to two years now, the name ‘Chelston’ has been the most pronounced one from the perspective of the corridors of Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC).
In the bulk of these inferences, that term has not been pronounced from a positive note.
The story was about the absence of water, bowser delivery, meetings and bill management.
The supply regime in Chelston, Avondale, PHI, Kaunda Square and the surrounding areas has been rickety for the bulk of the days. Because of this, the mention of Chelston within the company always shifts nerves. The reason is that the area is always associated with negative news.
The common feature has revolved on lack of water supply or demands for water, which in most cases has not been available. Water supply is never easy to areas where the piping and distribution centres are being reworked or rehabilitated.
There have been instances when management interchangeably held meetings to help restore hope in the agitated residents of Chelston and Avondale but anguish quickly strolled back because meetings did not fix the mechanical defects.
The genesis of the problem is that before these works, Chelston never faced supply problems, but coincidently, the time MCAZ launched the programme to resuscitate the water infrastructure, the tallest tank in the country, commonly known as Chelston tank, was oozing between 35 and 45 percent of water per day.
The lifespan of the tank had collapsed.
In reaction, LWSC decided to decommission it and fortuitously, MCAZ put the replacement of the tank as one of the interventions to be undertaken and the existing tank was thence decommissioned.
The decommissioning meant that supply was via by-pass, which is a very unreliable system of supplying water to any community. This process involved water being pushed by gravity all the way from Stewart Pack near State House to PHI, Munali, Kaunda Square, Chelston and Avondale.
That’s a tall order of the loudest proportion because altitudinal variations allow water to reach areas that lie low while the areas on the higher grounds suffer dry-outs.
Ideally, water should be stored in the Distribution Centre or tank within the vicinity of the targeted houses. Due to the height from the tank, the necessary gravity helps to increase pressure as the water gets to the houses.
This was no longer the case. Generally, Marshlands, Chelston, PHI and Avondale lie on higher grounds. Before water reaches the bulk of these areas, it had to negotiate the depressions such as the one after Chainama Hotel and then ascend to these areas, in the case of Chelston and Avondale.
That challenge, coupled with the already low pressure due to reduced supply as a result of repair works, made the whole episode unbearable to both the residents and the company.
It is because of this that we are currently constructing the new tank in Chelston to normalise supply in PHI, Kaunda Square, Avondale, Chainama and the surrounding areas.
We have so far done about 90 percent of the works and the tank will come online by mid-January, everything being equal.
A total of US$3.14 million has been spent on the project, which is being assembled about 100 metres from the decommissioned tank.
During the meeting we held with the residents, assurances were made that the problems they were facing were not permanent but many felt they were being sweet-talked to bring down their emotions.
In another set of meetings held separately in PHI and Kaunda Square in the same month, the struggle was real. Even when we took three water bowsers to the area in an attempt to keep them at our meeting place, many refused to face us because they felt that we were in the area to share lies.
We succeeded to keep them after several hours of talking while decanting water in their buckets. It has been a very bad period that should never come back to haunt us.
But that was then. The story about the tank is no longer theoretical as it is now standing tall and strong awaiting final touches before it can start operating.
But from our perspective as a company, the starting point is that the customers in the affected areas exhibited maximum patience for this long and we are on our knees thanking them every day for that rare quality.
Let the new water tank be commissioned so that water can flow once again. When this water tank is commissioned, we still have a date with the residents of Chelston and Kaunda Square. We need to talk.
The author is marketing and public relations manager at Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company.
Analysis: PATSON PHIRI