By RAPHAEL BANDA -
THE aspiration to transform Zambia into a strong and dynamic middle-income industrial nation that provides economic opportunities entails creating a conducive business environment for investment.
Regional and provincial statistics on Gross Domestic Product(GDP) show that Copperbelt and Lusaka regions jointly contribute more than half of the national GDP.
As of 2014, the two regions contributed 56.8 per cent to the national output followed by Southern, North Western and Central regions contributing 9.5 per cent, 8.2 per cent and 7.2 per cent respectively.
This, therefore, calls for good risk management frameworks and protection of property since these are critical requirements and elements of an enabling business environment.
However, the country has had no Fire and Rescue Service Policy to direct the management of Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) at national and sub-national level resulting in interventions that yielded limited results.
The country’s economic development was shaken when fires engulfed two economically reliable cities of Lusaka and Copperbelt last year.
Fire swept through Lusaka City Market on July 4, 2017, destroying property worth millions of Kwacha in what police suspected to be an act of sabotage.
The inferno started around 05:00 hours in the morning am, but the fire brigade only managed to put out the fire around 09:00 hours.
Shop owners watched helplessly as their properties were reduced to cinder.
President Edgar Lungu on arrival from Addis Ababa – Ethiopia – quickly visited the gutted city market and stressed that the law would catch up with lawbreakers and those engaging in acts bordering on economic sabotage.
But barely two months later, the Lusaka City Market again caught fire on October 27, 2017.
The fire destroyed the section of the market that had remained after the previous fire incident which occurred on July 4.
This time around, the fire, believed to have started around 23:30, resulted in the destruction of merchandise worth millions of Kwacha.
Alert Fire fighters only managed to put out the flames around 02:00 hours in tghe morning.
Besides that, Misisi Market was gutted on the same day as city market on July 4, and the office of the Kafue District Education Board Secretary (DEBS) was burnt on May 2, 2017 respectively.
The fires did not only wreak havoc in Lusaka Province, but also in Copperbelt Province where fire swept through the entire Kapalala Market in Ndola’s Masala area on August 30.
Even with all these catastrophes, the Government has shown its commitment to provide a fire safe environment for conducting economic and social activities.
The increase in population, both rural and urban areas, has changed the way people look at fire, from being a means of survival to being a threat to the environment, property and the human population.
Currently, there is no principal fire statue in Zambia.
One of the most serious challenges impeding the establishment of an effective fire management regime in the country is low compliance with existing fire safety regulations and lack of enforcement of those regulations.
There is lack of participation of the private sector and other actors in the process of extinguishing fires, hence the formulation of the National Fire and Rescue Services Policy (NFRSP) among other interventions.
The general goal of this policy is to effectively and efficiently prevent the occurrence of fires and other hazards while at the same time minimizing their impact through suppression measures under comprehensive and inclusive fire management frameworks that are consistent with urban and regional planning, land and resources management objectives.
The policy has five strategic objectives that are: to provide timely, coordinated, effective and sustainable fire rescue services that are prevention focused; to resource, equip and raise the administrative prominence of fire brigades; to realign existing institutions and establish new ones to effectively coordinate fire management and ensure preparedness at national and sub-national levels among others.
The National Fire and Rescue Services Policy (NFRSP) will comprehend the smooth service being provided by the 42 fire tenders that Government bought to re-enforce fire fighting departments in Zambia.
Noticeably, the procurement of the fire tenders has seen an improvement in fire fighting operations and services in the country.
On November 29, 2017, the Ministry of Local Government held a national fire and rescue services policy validation conference at Government complex in Lusaka.
The objective of the conference, which attracted all departments of fire fighting from all the local authorities across the country, was to scrutinize and reach a consensus on the drafted National Fire Policy and Rescue Services Policy.
Local Government Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga said Government was determined to address the challenges the fire sector has been facing since its establishment in the early 1950s.
Mr Malupenga said his ministry had put in place initiatives, citing establishment of Department of Fire at the ministry that will be complete this year and equip fire brigades with new fire tenders as among other major plans.
“Recently, Lafarge Cement was almost gutted, but the newly procured fire tenders were used to prevent the fire. Imagine the impact it would have had on the construction industry. We are doing everything possible to address the challenges,” Mr Malupenga stressed.
Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (ZIPAR) Executive Director Pamela Kabaso expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Local Government for taking a leading role in formulating the Fire Policy.
Ms Kabaso said the policy will help in protecting investments in the country as it strives to be a middle income and prosperous nation by 2030.
Recently, Minister of Local Government Vincent Mwale said the Fire Policy formulation and validation are done and awaiting enactment by the National Assembly.
Fire fighting and prevention calls for the involvement of the general citizenry.
To prevent further fire outbreaks, citizens ought to refrain from vandalizing fire hydrants, which are points where fire engines can tap water.
Fire hydrants are an active component of fire protection.
Thus the local authorities countrywide should quickly complete the process of numbering houses and grading of townships or street roads for easy access in times of emergencies.
Massive sensitizations at community, district, provincial and national level is needed so that everyone knows that fire prevention requires a collective approach in order to protect life, property and investments which lead to economic growth. – ZANIS.