FRANCIS LUNGU, Lusaka
THE unplanned settlements dotted around cities like Lusaka have made it difficult for the central government and municipalities to provide services such as clean drinking water, good roads, drainage systems and waste management.Over the years, initiatives and investments have been put in place to improve the slums to ensure people have access to decent, affordable and adequate housing, as well as basic services.
The Zambian government and its cooperating partners as well as some local players in the housing sector, such as the Civic Forum on Housing and Habitat Zambia, have joined hands in advocating for slum upgrade across the country.
Setting-in-motion the process to change the face of some shanties, Government is spearheading a two-year slum upgrade pilot project in Lusaka’s Kanyama township which is now at mapping stage – roads and drainages are being done as well.
“The drainages and roads will help in reducing the impact of floods that Kanyama usually experiences. This is a good development. We hope that after this, they can bring us street lights,” Adrian Musuka, a Kanyama resident, said in an interview.
Kanyama also got a 12-months Support to Occupancy Licences Project for Kanyama ward 10 residents, which ran from January to December 2017 at an estimated cost of K710, 000 from UN Habitat and the Lusaka City Council (LCC).
The project’s main objective was to improve the tenure of security for Kanyama ward 10 residents through the provision of occupancy licences, aimed at improving their social and economic conditions in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) 11.
Mr Musuka, a landlord, said the LCC has since issued them with documents for paying monthly land rates under the Support to Occupancy Licences Project.
The project was implemented in partnership with the UN Habitat, the Ministry of Local Government and the Ward Development Committee of Kanyama.
The upgrading project in Kanyama follows Government’s launch of the Citywide Slum Upgrading and Prevention Strategy to tackle challenges of service provision to unplanned settlements.
The slum upgrading plan aims at re-planning, dealing with the complicated boundaries and work on the roads, drainages and solid waste management system among other issues.
Under this strategy, Kanyama Township qualifies for upgrading after it was legalised by the LCC in 1999 and declared as an improvement area under the Housing Statutory and Improvement Areas Act of 1972 (now the Urban and Regional Planning Act number 3 of 2015).
In benefiting from this status of being a formalised settlement, Kanyama received a two-year (2017-2018) Slum Upgrading Pilot Project for re-planning, roads and drainages at a cost of K5 million.
The Government, LCC, with an assemblage of cooperating partners; UN Habitat, World Bank, Africa Development Bank (AfDB), the German and Irish embassies are working together on the slum upgrading pilot project.
Following the occupiers licences, the LCC has moved into Kanyama for mapping and enumeration, and database compilation for the township is being developed and access to occupancy licence by residents of Kanyama ward 10 is expected to increase.
Established as an unplanned settlement in the1960s, Kanyama is located on the western peripheral of the city of Lusaka and has sprawled wider over the years, making it the largest slum in Zambia with a population of slightly over 143,000, according to LCC 2016 statistics.
The capital, Lusaka, with an estimated population of around three million and growing at a rate of six percent per annum, according to the LCC figures, is harbouring the largest share of urbanisation challenges in Zambia.
Regrettably, almost 70 percent of Lusaka’s population is found in unplanned and unserviced settlements, while the city continues to receive unsustainable levels of migrants from both within the country and beyond the borders.
Since independence in 1964, Kanyama, which was a small informal settlement, has been growing rapidly to reach its current population size.
The Government has been finding it difficult to provide services such as clean drinking water, good roads, street lighting and well-functioning drainage systems to Kanyama and many other unplanned settlements.
Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo says 14 unplanned settlements currently spread around the city are posing a challenge for Government to provide services.
“As the transformation of the city is taking place, the unplanned settlements will also be transformed to ensure that service delivery of water, roads, schools and so on is also improved…at the moment, townships like Kuku are hard to reach in terms of service delivery,” he said.
According to the LCC, the upgrading pilot project started with Kanyama because of its huge population and numerous developmental challenges the area was faced with.
“We are at the stage of mapping, identifying coordenates. We are mapping Kanyama as a settlement not as a constituency with political boundaries. Officers from city planning are on the ground, we have partners like Ministry of Local Government and Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development,” LCC public relations manager George Sichimba said in an interview.
He said upgrading of Kanyama will bring along benefits such as improved sanitation and other services from utilities such as Zesco, Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company, among others.
Even in case of fires, Mr Sichimba said, it was difficult to navigate through an unplanned settlement like Kanyama, but that with the ongoing facelift, the area would be accessible.
“Kanyama is a starting point. Our plan is that all unplanned settlements should be upgraded. We are seeing some problems of flooding in some areas like Kuku and the excuse is that these are unplanned settlements, and the lasting solution is to upgrade them,” said Mr Sichimba.
On the other hand, Mr Sichimba said upgrading of an area came with certain effects that can affect some structures and that massive sensitisation and corporation from residents was need.
Nonetheless, Kanyama member of Parliament Elizabeth Phiri said the people of Kanyama deserve better services after experiencing poor living conditions for too long.
“The project is welcome, but Kanyama people are not ready for poor quality of houses. The council and its partners should give Kanyama best quality. I pray that they are giving us the best plan for these houses,” she said.
And Civic Forum on Housing and Habitat Zambia executive director Grace Chikumo-Mtonga says the initiative by Government and its cooperating partners to upgrade slums will help address an array of health hazards that the majority poor urban dwellers face.
Ms Mtonga, whose organisation advocates for decent, affordable and adequate housing for all, said upgrading of slums should start with the respective communities owning the process and contributing to the attainment of its objectives.
“The pilot projects should be a consortium of re-planned, densified communities which should also be provided with public services such as schools, clinics, play parks for children and the youths as well as access roads,” she said.
She also observed that the collaboration by the government and cooperating partners avails a chance to mobilise more resources for even the upgrading of other compounds such as Chibolya, Misisi and Kuku.
FRANCIS LUNGU, Lusaka