Lusaka: Goodbye my Shallow Well

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February 13, 2012
VIOLET MENGO

WITH smile on his face Austin Goma, 40 opens a tap at one of the newly constructed water kiosks in Mtendere East. The flow of water is a clear demonstration of the residents’ farewell to the challenges of water supply experienced for many years.

Goma’s joy and that of his community comes as a sense of fulfilment that they will no longer spend hours looking for water, nor will they have to depend on shallow wells anymore.

“The provision of water to Mtendere East means reduction in water and sanitation related illness for our community especially children, it is a dream come true,” he says.

Goma smiling as he helps the women in his community draw water from one of ther constructed water kiosks. Here community members pay K100, for a 20 litre and one can draw as much as they want in a day

Goma, a father of four says his family has been among the most affected in the community as they did not have access to water supply. They would buy and also use shallow well water which was a common practice in the area.

He says with the water kiosks, one is able to pay K100, per 20 litre container unlike in the past where they would pay K200 per container from individual connections. Although he says it is manageable, some members of the community still feel it is expensive.

Apart from serving money, the community which is involved in informal type of work will have more time to be productive and also school going children will no longer miss class because they have to help their parents draw water.

For Mtendere East, having sustainable water supply is in itself is a success story as the area has for many years not known what it means to have access to safe drinking water. For those that dug shallow well, diarrhoea diseases were common while those with individual connections overpriced their neighbours.

The incidence of water and sanitation related diseases remains high and this is worsened by the high poverty level as most people work in informal sector. Among the common diseases that were prone to the area include dysentery, Cholera and Typhoid.

Mtendere East is one of the poorest settlements in Lusaka with a population of 78 000 which adds up to the 65 percent of people living in Lusaka’s peri urban areas. 56 percent do not have access to acceptable quality water supply.

Today, many people can no longer go to fetch water from shallow wells nor will any individual exploit the other. Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) has provided them water for the improvement of their living standards.

Goma who is also the Community Board Water Trust Chairman says residents are excited with the provision of water and have already started seeing the benefits of clean supply of water.

“Water enhances people’s lives, in a more positive way- less disease outbreak, more productivity and general health people,” he says.

LWSC through a partnership with Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), CARE Zambia, the Australian government development agency and the members of the community have seen the successful implementation of the K8.7 billion water, sanitation and hygiene promotion project.

Two boreholes have been drilled, a ground water distribution tank, and 15 kiosks to service approximately over 30 000 people.

The water supply system design has the potential to reach the whole of Mtendere east, Kalikiliki and the surrounding areas to a grand total of 150 000 people.

The beauty about the project is that it is participatory focusing on community participation and capacity building of all stakeholders as an integral part to ensure its sustainability.

“Water vendors have been trained to operate and maintain kiosks, while water trust personnel have been trained in operation, maintenance and management of community based water supply and sanitation schemes,” LWSC Public Relations Manager Topsy Sikainda says.

Sikainda says the community water trust looks at the day to day running of the operations of the project on behalf of LWSC. This is one way of allowing the community members to own the project and ensure its sustainability.

He added that community members have so far appreciated the provision of water and have taken ownership by ensuring that the facilities are well maintained.

In terms of health and hygiene promotion, LWSC has deliberately targeted school going children and young mothers’ teaching them the benefits of hand washing and other good hygiene practices to help break the faecal oral route.

The nelwy constructed 300 cubic metres ground distribution water tank built in the heart of Mtendere East Township. It is expected to service the whole community

The minister of Local Government, Housing, Early Education and Environmental Protection Professor Nkandu Luo during the launch of the project last month, urged the residents to maintain the facilities so that the community has a steady supply of clean low cost water.

“Maintaining high standards of hygiene at household level and safe guarding communal water points will keep water related diseases at bay and save residents from unnecessary health related costs,” Prof Luo said.

National Water and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) Public Relations Officer Rose Tembo says the currently the National water coverage for urban and peri urban areas is at 75 percent.

She says water supply and sanitation has received low budgetary allocation of up three percent of the National budget, with most Commercial Utilities having challenges with infrastructure which are either run down or obsolete.

“It is gratifying that government has prioritized water and sanitation and we are hopeful that with government support, provision of water supply and sanitation would be accelerated,” Tembo says.

NWASCO, a water supply and sanitation regulator established in 2000 ensure that efficiency and sustainability of water and sanitation service provision.

Tembo says the bad culture of not paying for water has also adversely affected the operations of the Commercial Utilities.

She explained that NWASCO certifies that the quality of the service and the pricing is regulated to protect the consumer from exploitation.

“Providers left to themselves would want to operate in financially lucrative areas leaving out a large number of people without access to clean water and sanitation services,” she says.

With the involved of various stakeholders in the provision of water, especially the Mtendere project, Goma and his community will wear the smiles of their faces for a very long time.

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