Analysis: PATSON PHIRI
ONE of the worst nightmares for the City of Lusaka is the absence of an ideal sanitation service. This has causing residents to sinking human excreta underground without choice.
Ironically, the trend is in conflict with the Public Health Act which prescribes that human waste must be transmitted and disposed of in designated places. This has compromised enforcement over time due to the absence of investment in sanitation services.
But the city is now looking up as Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) gets fixated with turning human exreta into gold under a trending new technology called sludge management within the yet-to-be launched Lusaka Sanitation Project.
Sludge management is a process of turning faecal material into useful products such as fertilisers, ropes, desks and several others.
The Lusaka Sanitation Master Plan seeks to increase access to sustainable sanitation services to residents, especially the urban poor and strengthen LWSC’s capacity to manage sanitation services.
The city is preparing to muscle against the primitive dumping of human waste underground through septic tanks and pit latrines that have been camouflaged as decency when the word primitive is more apropos.
The Lusaka Sanitation Project aims to address one of Zambia’s most binding constrictions to economic growth through infrastructure investment in faecal management— a critical rider to hygiene.
The project has been designed to create employment to citizens of Lusaka as the human waste will be processed into sludge that will be used to manufacture various tools of economic necessity, among them desks, ropes, fertiliser, carrier bags and many others.
In some areas of Lusaka, on-site sanitation system where ‘emptible’ toilets will be supplied to households will be used.
In these areas, trucks will collect the waste when the toilets are full for further processing while other areas will be connected to sewer lines for Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) under a system called off-site sanitation.
In a layman’s language, trucks and tankers will go round the city collecting faecal matter from toilets for processing into products of economic value in areas where on-site sanitation will take effect. The system is rich in countries like Ghana where human waste is a money-spinner.
The programme is expected to cost a total of US$127.83 million, of which the African Development Bank (AfDB) is contributing US$50 million or 39 percent while the World Bank is adding 51 percent of the budget. The Government of Zambia will contribute 10 percent.
The programme has a lifespan of five years, whose first year investment construction has already started in 2017.
In the first component of this massive project, there is recognition that only an estimated 14 percent of Lusaka’s population is connected to piped sewer and the remainder relies on on-site solutions mainly called pit latrines and septic tanks with a small population depending on open defecation.
The city has sewered areas that are serviced by LWSC with conventional water-borne sewers while others are private sewered areas in which private developers have provided their own sewer systems.
Lusaka also has septic tanked areas in which the majority of households use some form of closed, underground tank to contain sewage and drain into a soak-away.
There are also areas in the capital city where pit latrines are the only forms of sanitation services. Unfortunately, most of the septic tanks and pit latrines do not comply with the government and general prescribed standards of basic sanitation.
The sanitation programme also comprises of the construction of 480 kilometres of sewer lines, eight pumping stations and seven waste water treatment plants.
The current sewer system is more than 40 years old and hardly any investments have been made in the sanitation sector since then.
The crucial factors in the Lusaka Sanitation Master Plan include constructing 100 percent sanitation coverage for Lusaka Province by 2035 through a combination of off-site and on-site systems.
Investment needs amounting to US$1.9 billion have been identified, including US$1.3 billion (67 percent) for sewer collection and treatment facilities and US$640 million for improved on-site sanitation systems.
The author is manager – marketing and public relations at Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company.