Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
WHEN the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company announced the shutting down of the Chongwe water treatment plant due to the Chongwe River running dry, several thoughts ran in my mind.
Firstly, I totally agreed with LWSC interim managing director Manuel Mutale who said that the effects of global warming are real.
Chongwe residents are now bearing the brunt of global warming being a reality as they have to cope with water stress.
The LWSC has moved in swiftly to cushion the impact of the water crisis that has hit Chongwe, a budding district east of the capital, Lusaka.
Measures have been put in place to immediately start transporting water by road from Lusaka into Chongwe until the rainy season.
The utility is now working closely with the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit under the office of the Vice-President to deal with the matter.
There are measures to mitigate the situation in the long term by drilling some boreholes about 11 kilometres away from Chongwe town.
Mr Mutale says this project is underway, and once logistical issues are in place, the well field will be done to mitigate the dry seasons in Chongwe district.
However, Chongwe town does not have groundwater posing a serious challenge to drilling boreholes in the area.
Customers have been told to show responsibility by conserving water during the dry season in order to ease the pressure of increased demand during this period of the year.
Chongwe will soon become a university town and lack of water will certainly affect the operations of the higher institutions of learning.
The LWSC must work with local communities in restocking trees, especially along river banks.
The drying up of Chongwe river has long been coming because authorities have paid little or no attention to concerns by environmental activists by Kunda Chimambo Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation Trust who have been advocating for preservation of Forest Reserve no 27, 26 and 55, which have been encroached.
Forest 27 in Lusaka East is the source of Chalimbana River which feeds into Chongwe River, the lifeblood for Chongwe district.
Forest Reserve 26 is the major water re-charge area for Lusaka groundwater and was 14,000 hectares stretching all the way to Shantumbu, Chilanga, Manyika and other areas.
However, the insatiable appetite for infrastructure development has eaten up Forest Reserve no. 27 like a cancer.
Forest no 55 on the other hand is designated for Lusaka Water Works for conserving water for the capital city and other outlying areas.
The Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation Trust has been waging a war against the encroachment of the Chalimbana headwaters for almost 30 years.
First President Kenneth Kaunda de-gazetted Forest Reserve no. 27 in 1983 but second President Frederick Chiluba re-gazetted it after the petition by the Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation Trust.
Now, the construction of the 10,000 housing units by ZAF in Twin Palm poses a fresh threat to the Chalimbana River as it will be contaminated unless the developers of the project collaborate with environmental authorities.
The author is editorial editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO