Columnists

Water system repairs versus frustrations

PATSON PHIRI

Analysis: PATSON PHIRI
LUSAKA Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) is implementing various projects aimed at improving sanitation and

water supply in the city of Lusaka in an effort to meet the growing demand for the commodity.
The exponential population growth against a rickety water infrastructure that was last rehabilitated in 1988 has literally led to shameful service delivery that must be corrected with the necessary immediacy.
One of the projects is the Lusaka Water Supply Sanitation and Drainage project, which is also referred to as the Millennium Challenge. Others prefer to call it the Millennium Challenge Account Zambia (MCAZ).
The Zambian government signed a contract with the American government worth US$355 million for this particular project.
The other two major projects, the Kafue Bulk Water Supply and the Lusaka Sanitation Programme (LSP), are being financed through counterpart funding arrangements in which the Zambian government is also contributing a lot of money for water infrastructure overhaul.
The Millennium Challenge is running until around November 2018. Between now and that time, several parts of Lusaka, especially along and across the roads, will have lots of activities.
My writing today has nothing to do with the details of the work to be undertaken but the complaints and anger that these repair works have attracted from the citizens of Lusaka Province.
It must be noted that LWSC is now responsible for provision of water, sanitation and sewerage services to the entire province from east to west and north to south.
This means that all districts in the province now fall under LWSC and these include Chirundu, Kafue, Chilanga, Lusaka, Chongwe and Shibuyunji. These activities will certainly be escalated to these outlying districts.
The construction works have attracted a good amount of frustration from residents and motorists arising from road closures and deviations in certain cases. Many have complained that the company has caused so much traffic and inconvenience.
I feel duty-bound to explain why the level of disturbances has been above sleeves hoping that residents will understand.
Access to water is a human right that the company takes very seriously considering that the commodity is the most precious natural resource that has ever existed since creation. To say that water is a precious natural resource is an understatement.
On July 28, 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognised that human rights to water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of decency. The UN acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation is core to the attainment of all human rights.
The resolution calls upon states and international organisations to provide financial resources, help with capacity-building and technology transfer to aid countries, in particular developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.
Economically, nothing moves without water. Development activities such as mining, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and any other activity cannot function without water. Water powers machines that excavate the mines.
It delivers the ultimate growth of human health because it is a major food additive, so there is no angle of human decency without water.
I demand a concession that explaining further than this is a waste of time and a boring story. The story is known.
Since formation in 1988, LWSC has not invested in water generation and distribution and the population never waited for that investment to take place before it could grow. At the inception of LWSC, the water generation was meant to cater for a population of about 20,000 people.
It has since grown and latest estimates claim that Lusaka Province alone has over 2.777 million people against an old water system meant to service a population equivalent to that of Kafue district.
The government has realised that this is a crisis-in-waiting, hence the need to overhaul the system and respond to the growing population and multiple demands.
This is a call on the residents of Lusaka that the frustrations associated with road deviations and closures bear a future where access to water should not be a challenge. Water is the economy of this country. Water is life and it must be allowed to take the lead for the economy to sit firm.
The residents must support these efforts aimed at improving systems for their own benefit. There is a combined effort in the ongoing projects that include increasing the volume of water available to the citizens.
Apart from that, Lusaka should expect an improved sanitation system because the company and its partners are putting up about 10,000 toilets in various parts of the city.
Therefore, incidents of cholera are likely to be confined to the annals of history. This is the evolution that should benefit the citizens of Lusaka. Citizens should face a future marked with pride after a gloomy past where water blues became normal.
Those with extra resources have had to spend colossal sums of money to construct boreholes to supply water because LWSC became unreliable. In terms of responding to the poor sewerage systems, septic tanks have been constructed at household levels.
This has led to the problem of contamination of underground water. Slowly, this is emerging as another crisis. It requires urgent quick intervention.
So, Lusaka has a duty to celebrate the ongoing construction works aimed at improving access to water.
Water resource is not a privilege but a human right par excellence. So remove frustration and stand proud and free for a future economy driven by the right volumes of water.
The author is marketing and public relations manager at Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company.

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