Columnists Features

Weakening Namwala bridges threat

THE bridges have seen better days and with rains pounding the area heavily, any of the five bridges, some which are about 200 metres apart, may just give up and collapse at any time

FIDGETING with some papers in his hands, Henry Chawah is genuinely worried that Namwala district may be cut off from the rest of Southern Province any time.
Road communication between Namwala and Choma is under severe threat because five of the many bridges, which connect the two, districts may collapse any time due to the heavy rains and huge traffic the area is receiving.
Mr Chawah, the Namwala District Council secretary, knows the consequences of any of the five bridges which are in a vulnerable state collapsing because they are the link for the road to Choma which is the only reliable and essential medium of communication for Namwala residents.
The bridges have seen their days and with rains pounding the area heavily, any of the five bridges, some which are about 200 metres apart, may just give up and collapse at any time.
Mr Chawah said the local authority has already flagged Government on the urgency of repairing the bridges before they collapse.
The 170-kilometre road, which links Namwala to Choma, is the district’s lifeblood as other routes are inaccessible during the rainy season.
“The bridges are getting eaten away,” Mr Chawah said.
His sentiments were echoed by district commissioner Mary Sakala, who observed that while the road is wider, the five bridges are getting narrower.
Ms Sakala said she has also informed Government about the urgency of repairing the five vulnerable bridges.
Namwala, which lies north-west of Livingstone, is bordered by Choma, Kalomo, Itezhi Tezhi and Monze.
Yet there is no direct route between Namwala and Kalomo while connection with Itezhi Tezhi is via the pontoon on the Kafue River, which is 12 kilometres away but the road becomes impassable during the rainy season.
A climate proofed road from Itezhi Tezhi to the Kafue River and Namwala township will be constructed under the climate resilience project in the Kafue sub-basin.
A similar road from Dundumwezi constituency in Kalomo will be linked to Namwala.
Namwala’s connection with Monze is supposed to be through Niko Road which has been tarred for 27-kilometres up to Nalutanda in Chief Hamusonde’s area with 47 kilometres remaining.
Ms Sakala said the contractor has mobilised on site and should start working on the road expected to be completed in June.
“Graders are back on site, the contractor is back from break,” Ms Sakala said.
Locally, Ms Sakala said the upgrading of infrastructure is on-going with the Zambia National Service expected to start working on the Hamusonde – Maala road leading to Chief Mungaila’s area.
“I am seeing development, response from Government is good,” Ms Sakala said.
Government is planning to construct 10 kilometres of township roads under the Pave Zambia project.
Namwala is one of the nine districts that will benefit from the US$38 million climate resilience project in the Kafue sub-basin.
The project, which started in 2013 and will run for five years, is expected to foster food security, sustained growth and poverty reduction by strengthening the adaptive capacity of communities that depend on rain-fed agriculture and natural resources for subsistence and livelihood to better respond to climate variability and long-term climate change consequences.
Namwala District Council acting planner Anthony Phiri said communities have been engaged to choose projects which will help them adapt to the changing climate.
“Some are trying to diversify to drought- resistant crops,” he said.
The biggest challenge the people of Namwala are facing is the lack of access to clean water.
To enhance access to water, boreholes are being drilled, which also help farmers irrigate their crops.
Mr Phiri has seen people switching to piggery as a way of supplementing larger livestock.
Communities are receiving funding directly from the project and have been encouraged to open bank accounts.
“So far, we have received 50 project proposals, done 25 desk appraisals, done nine field appraisals and submitted to the provincial implementation unit for approval,” Mr Phiri said.
Mr Phiri said the council will continue with the appraisals of the project whose primary beneficiaries will be poor farmers who often suffer climate-related losses, and other vulnerable groups depending on natural resources for livelihoods.
About 30 percent of the direct beneficiaries should be the youth and women.
“We will continue the appraisals for received proposals, we are doing it in batches. We want to encourage community members to continue submitting,” Mr Phiri said of the project being piloted in three wards; Kantengwa, Itapa and Namwala Central.
Apart from road infrastructure, the district commissioner said Namwala is a beneficiary of nine health posts out of the 650 being constructed country-wide. The health posts are being erected in chiefs Machila, Mukobela, Mungaila and Nalubamba.
Government is building a district hospital where President Lungu commissioned a mother’s shelter last month.
Ms Sakala said Government is also building a modern market at a cost of K142,000.
Mount Meru Petroleum has also contributed to the district’s development agenda by building the first ever filling station, which was commissioned last September.
Zanaco is the only financial institution standing in one of the country’s oldest districts, but Ms Sakala said Barclays Bank has made enquiries about opening a branch there.
Under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), construction of a 1×3 housing flats has been completed at Musemu and Namubanga community schools while the construction of Kasonkomona Community School is almost complete.
Roofing of Tampwe school has been completed.
Construction of health posts in Ndema ward as well as Mbeza-Moomba has been completed.
“We are also completing the Maala ART Clinic, the foundation was done but we picked it up from there. We completed Mobola ART Clinic, we channelled CDF to the project,” Mr Phiri said.
The council has sunk 32 boreholes to enhance people’s access to clean water, including one at Lubanga Basic School.
“We have also constructed a mother’s shelter which was commissioned by President Lungu,” Mr Phiri said.
Namwala Community Radio station is under testing.
“Information is key for decision-making,” Mr Phiri said, revealing that to share information with the local community, council or district administration officials have to go to either Choma, Monze or Lusaka to pay for airtime.
“Through CDF, we found it fit to meet the need [information gap. The structure was there, we just needed to equip it,” he said.
Using CDF, the local authority has empowered 22 women clubs with various income-generating activities ranging from poultry to goat rearing.
Mr Chawah said the local authority has no vehicle worth writing home about.
“Our major cry is transport, the vehicles we have are now scrap,” he said, pointing to the local authority’s ability to provide services to the community.

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