Analysis: LOUIS MWAPE
THE keenly anticipated event in the water and sanitation sector and arguably the most important of them all; the annual Urban and Peri-urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Report, was recently launched in Lusaka.
For most commercial utilities, it ended on a stirring note, as they drew sustained applause for the accolades they received for best performance on key performance indicators, such as water supply and sanitation (WSS) service coverage, revenue collection efficiency and water metering ration, among other indicators.
The revealed marked improvement and positive trend in a number of indicators offered reasons for hope in the now and the future beyond challenges and success being experienced in the sector.
Now, having just returned from that defining summit that brought together various sector players, the most frequently asked question by colleagues from the media who were in want of tit-bits was: “What is the Water Sector Report launch all about?”
Obviously, it would have been great if the answer to that question could have been a direct one word or even a terse statement, but alas that question dictates a more detailed explanation for one reason or another.
In the immediate wake of the launch, here are a few take-aways that seem to highlight what the summit entails and what is currently happening in the water sector:
The 2018-2019 National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) Urban and Peri-urban Sector Report is a 100-paged document, which gives first-hand data on the comparative performance of all 11 water utility companies in Zambia. The report discusses at length the progress and challenges of the water and sanitation sector in the country.
Like previous reports, the launch provided an amplifier for reforms, new policies and obtaining trends in the water sector. From what was highlighted, it is easy to note that there was fairly remarkable progress in terms of national water and sanitation coverage.
The Government, for instance, revealed that over US$1.5 billion investment has been expended over the years through various projects in the sector. Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection Minister Dennis Wanchinga revealed this in a speech delivered on his behalf by the Acting Permanent Secretary, engineer Kenneth Nyundu, during the launch. Dr Wanchinga mentioned that the ministry was already making strides towards achieving the universal coverage for water and sanitation by 2030.
He cited the Millennium Challenge projects, Kafue Bulk Line project covering Lusaka, the Integrated Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation projects covering Central, Luapula,Western,Muchinga and Northern provinces, Nkana Water Supply and Sanitation Project,Kafubu Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project, Kafulafuta Water Supply and Sanitation project, Zambia Water Supply and Sanitation and Transforming Rural Livelihood Water and Sanitation Project for Rural Communities in Western Province, as some of the major projects that Government and its cooperating partners have invested in.
Over the years, the water sector has demonstrated a fairly remarkable capacity to offer the Zambians good news about its activities. One might think, for instance, about the revelations made by NWASCO board chairperson, engineer Levi Zulu, on the overall coverage for both water and sanitation coverage, which increased slightly, with an addition of 349,126 people served with potable water and 210,266 persons accessing sanitation services, as attributes of a sector that is tackling challenges head-on and making progress.
Engineer Zulu explained that the past decade or so had seen major improvements in the sector and in particular service delivery in general. He noted that among significant areas of improvement is installation of over 36,000 meters resulting in an increase in the metering ratio from 74 percent to 78 percent.
“The aim of the sector is to achieve 100 percent metering within the medium term which will go a long way in helping commercial utilities achieve full cost recovery,” engineer Zulu said.
Meanwhile, NWASCO managing director Kelvin Chitumbo commended all 11 commercial utilities on the great efforts that they have been making to ensure improved service delivery, adding that they should not give up but work hard even in the coming years.
Questions surrounding how the water sector was fairing in providing water and sanitation services to peri-urban and low-income areas are also thoroughly discussed in the report. The report revealed that Devolution Trust Fund (DTF) had been financing commercial utilities for more than 15 years up to 2018.
The DTF interventions resulted to over 1,179,505 persons having access to sustainable and safe water supply in peri-urban and low-cost areas of Zambia.
However, the report also acknowledged that non-revenue water (NRW) and poor state of infrastructure remained eminent onslaughts for the sector and that commercial utilities should continue to make efforts in order to reel through it.
With that said, so much is at stake for the water sector in terms of service delivery in that regard. They are expected to perform as a litmus test as serious commitment to further improve service delivery. It is for that reason that the report includes an affirmation of zero tolerance to NRW.
Mulonga Water and Sewerage Company Limited (MWSC) is awarded as a top performer, while Southern Water and Sewerage Company Limited (SWASCO) came second. Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company Limited (LgWSC) was awarded as the Most Improved in terms of staff efficiency.
The author is communications officer at Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company Limited.
Analysis: LOUIS MWAPE