Misisi grapples with water blues
Published On March 21, 2014 » 2925 Views» By Davies M.M Chanda » Features
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•CHILD LABOUR: A seven-year-old girl pushing a wheelbarrow to fetch water.

•CHILD LABOUR: A seven-year-old girl pushing a wheelbarrow to fetch water.

By MIRIAM ZIMBA –

FOR residents of Lusaka’s Misisi area, their day begins as early as 04:00 hours, not only because they have to make a living, it is so because the old adage ‘the early bird catches the worm’ is highly applicable to the prevailing situation in the area.

For a densely populated area such as ‘Kwa Join-Poll-lines’ of Misisi Township, there is only one communal tap, which serves as a water source for hundreds of residents in the area.

This entails that one has to wake up early enough, especially those whose houses are a bit distant from the tap, in order to set their containers in the queue to fetch water.

In fact, the early morning hours between 05:00hrs and 07:00 hours is mostly characterised with a bitter exchange of unpalatable language at the communal tap because everyone view’s their need to fetch water as a priority over others.

“People even fight over water. We have witnessed a lot of women and young men exchanging blows, with some even pouring water on each other, over who should draw water first before the other,” Ballard Mwenya, a resident in the area said.

The long queues which mostly women have to endure, means that they spend a greater part of their morning hours at the communal tap, at the expense of household productivity.

Some parents have resorted to sending children as young as seven years with close to four 20 liter containers on wheel-barrows.

Children from other less fortunate families without wheel-barrows send their children with containers which they are forced to carry on their heads.

While other young children are forced to roll drums as enormous as 90 liters in groups of threes, from the tap, all the way to their homes, a clear testimony of the extent of child labour.

While many organisations pride in working towards eliminating child labour in communities, one would wonder when these children attend school if they have to assist their parents draw water.

Elizabeth Mwika, a resident in the area explained that the water which emanates from the communal tap, is over-flowing into people’s yards causing a build-up of stagnant water.

“All we ask from the relevant authorities is to look at ways of diverting the water by creating drainages, so that water does not flow into houses which are situated close to the tap.

Currently, there is a pool of stagnant water in front of three houses, which is a looming health risk for water borne diseases.

Families living in these houses also run the risk of falling prey to malaria, because the water has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Ms Mwika complained that the stagnant water had a very offensive stench and that it makes cooking outside very difficult for most residents, especially that most of them rent small rooms without indoor kitchens.

She also raised concerns about children who sometimes play around the stagnant water, whose grounds are very slippery.

Another resident, Limbikani Mwale also lamented over the mushrooming car-wash business that have seized the opportunity of access to free water at the communal tap.

“There are people who come to wash cars, trucks and buses here, and sometimes, leave behind engine oil and fuel, which mixes with the water, and is later channeled down to people’s yards,” he said.

Mr Mwale insisted that if there was a water meter in place, and that the water at the communal tap was pre-paid, it would deter the mushrooming car-wash businesses.

It is hard to imagine that the kind of life led in this area, situated about five kilometers away from the central business district of the capital city.

Other residents, whose cannot endure standing in the long queues to fetch water, just settle for washing and bathing from the stagnant water.

Another area less populated in prime location is the University Teaching Hospital (UTH)’s area along Independence Avenue-the Highland House flats for medical practitioners.

Although their situation may not be as desperate as that in Misisi, these flats have had do running water for some months now.

A guard from a neighbouring house talked to explained that most inhabitants of these flats are forced to fetch water from neighbouring houses.

In the early hours of the morning, residents of these flats are forced to carry around buckets and containers to fetch water from the premises next to theirs, while some cross independence avenue to fetch water from across.

“It is a sorry sight to see these respectable members of society moving around with buckets of water, and those who have maids are lucky because they simply delegate the fetching of water to them,” said Allan Nkulukusa, from one of the neighbouring houses.

Some of the residents here do not even understand the reason behind their not having running water on their premises.

These are just examples of some of the many areas in Lusaka experiencing challenges in accessing water for household use.

While the country joins several others in commemorating the World Water Day, under the theme ‘Water and Energy’, many people, in Lusaka and other parts of the country are still grappling with access to safe and clean drinking water.

The relationship between water and energy cannot be over-emphasised because according to global statistics, about eight per cent of the global energy generation is used for pumping, treating and transporting water to various consumers.

It is said water is a vital component for sustainable development, meaning that on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) seven which seeks to ensure improved environmental sustainability, is heavily dependent of the effective management of water resources.

This MDG seeks to ensure that the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water is halved by 2015.

Although government reaffirms its recognition of water and energy is an engine to spur economic development, the reality on the ground in Misisi area, within the confines of the capital city tells a totally different story.

Quoted from his speech ahead of the World Water day celebrations, Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma says water and energy are critical for development in sectors such as mining, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, health education and many others.

He also called for the urgent need to employ a holistic approach to ensure effective management and use of this resource, through increased storage capacity.

“Government is putting emphasis on infrastructure for water resources management and development areas such as monitoring water stations, water and wastewater treatment plants, dams, wells, canals, and hydro power plants,” he added.

He pledged Government’s commitment to ensuring the provision of water and sanitation for rural, per-urban and urban communities.

The implementation of the National Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Programme which runs from 2011 to 2030, aims at improving the provision of water supply and sanitation services through commercial water utilities.

Clearly, access to clean and safe water and sanitation is critical, not only for socio-economic development, but also for the health of its users.

There is no doubt that the country still has a long-way to go in ensuring that this essential commodity becomes accessible to its citizens in a clean, safe and environmentally sustainable manner.

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