Analysis: LOUIS MWAPE
JUST last week, the Zambia Water Forum and Exhibition (ZAWAFE), one of the most significant events in the water sector whose aim is to raise public awareness about the importance of water and share best practices on water management, was held in Lusaka.
Under the theme “The Impact of Sanitation on Water Security: Towards the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number six”, the forum had not one but two larger than life points of reference namely, water security and sanitation.
The weight of the two hanged quiet heavily throughout the event and they were definitely buzz words. And the reason to that effect is simple; to a larger extent Sanitation is synonymous to water security even though water security is affected by a host of factors.
Perhaps that is the large part of the reason the event brought out several other discussions among them; raising awareness of the inter-linkage between climate change and water security and contributing to policy dialogue that focuses on the broad range of issues related to waste management practices and their implication on water security.
The other quick interesting development from the event is that the vice-president and now the matron for ZAWAFE, Inonge Wina made a strong call to gazette the second week of June as the Zambia water week. That means that the hosting of that annual event for the water sector will become a perpetual practise.
That pronouncement certainly elates sector players as it comes as an expression of approval that the dialogue and sharing of best practices and mainstreaming water as a core component of social and economic development, is among things that should not only continue to take a centre-stage on the national agenda but also be actualised and implemented.
Delivering a key note address during the event, MrsWina noted that Zambia and Sub-Saharan Africa are largely water-insecure on the account of the lack of water management infrastructure in terms of water harvesting, storage, water supply and sanitation services.
The vice president also revealed that inadequate access to clean drinking water and Sanitation still looms large and that Zambia is no exception. She made reference to the 2017-2018 outbreak of cholera as a clear manifestation of the challenge.
She said this in a speech delivered on her behalf by the Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, Dennis Wanchinga, during the just ended ZAWAFE.
According to the Zambia National Public Health Institute, the period October 2017-April 2018, Zambia recorded 5,905 cases and 98 deaths due to the cholera outbreak. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in 2015 also reported that countries in Sub Sahara Africa lose 4.3 percent of their annual GDP (about) US$194 million dollars per year) due to inadequate sanitation, and consequently health care costs and productivity losses that comes thereafter.
As a critical nexus to water, sanitation is of obvious relevance to water security in Zambia and policy makers and other influencers have come to terms with that. For instance, the ZAWAFE matron at that August event delivered an immortal emphasis on conceited dynamic efforts and more investment in the area of water and sanitation.
“It is time we joined hands as stakeholders in exploring and executing strategies that can help address the challenges in the water and sanitation sector. I wish to state that my Government is committed not to just implement SDG number six but also all the other SDG’s. In this regard, I call upon the civil society, the private sector, cooperating partners and the general citizenry to ensure that we work together in the attainment of the Universal access to water supply and sanitation” the vice president said.
If there is anything else that could be said about the just-ended ZAWAFE is that it the discussion went beyond emphasis on increased funding, but also stressed the importance of exploring novel approaches to cross-cutting issues affecting water security.
That really drives the point home for a fact that increased funding without proper plans and implementation could stale all efforts to have the much needed development.
Technological innovations for water and sanitation is another aspect that received a lot of acclaim from delegates, and Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company Limited (LgWSC) was hailed for its Digital Meter Reading (DMR) Innovation it showcased.
The innovation is a copyright and brainchildren of LgWSC meant to assist Customer Service Agents pick meter readings with ease and update customer details.
Speaking when he toured LgWSC stand, Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, Dennis Wanchinga praised the innovation as one of its kind and called upon all water companies to replicate it.
And LgWSC acting managing director Yoram Sinyangwe informed the minister that Southern Water had already procured the said technology from his company and that many more water companies had equally expressed interest in procuring it.
Even though ZAWAFE does not bask in national acclaim in terms of publicity, since 2011 organisers have been consistent in hosting it and the recent edition held from June 10-12 2019 marked the eighth of its kind.
Most of the reforms and best practices taking place in the water sector are to a larger extent owed to ideas from ZAWAFE.
The author is communications officer for Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company.
Analysis: LOUIS MWAPE