THE political campaigns for the vacant position of the Republican President are currently being heavily conducted by the 11 candidates and their respective political parties.
Those preparing to cast a reasoned vote on January 20, 2015 are keenly following what is happening on the Zambian political landscape to evaluate each and every presidential candidate as they make all kinds of promises.
A common trend with most if not all political presidential candidates is the tendency to promise to reduce the price of, say, mealie meal or indeed fuel and other sweet nothings.
However, an examination of these promises will reveal that none is going much beyond just making these promises to outline how these promises will be achieved and delivered to the electorate, for instance, the promise to reduce the price of mealie meal may be achieved through various options including through a decree where the Government would issue an order or other authority with the force of a law instructing mealie meal to be sold at a particular price.
Mealie meal price reduction could also be achieved through improved and increased production, or it could be through the removal or reduction of whatever taxes are imposed on this commodity.
Another option is an introduction of subsidies either on production or consumption or indeed both, the absence of these details may lead to a potential voter to conclude that such promises are merely rhetorical and nothing else.
However, the fact the political parties are talking about these issues is a good indicator that they are at least thinking about these social matters although the actual solutions may still be blurred.
A further examination of the political pronouncements being made by the various political parties will reveal that none of the candidates is addressing, in any meaningful and comprehensive manner, the very serious issues related to the continued degradation of the built environment most Zambians live in.
These issues are evident in both the unplanned settlements, which have come into existence in a spontaneous manner as well as the legally developed settlements that are badly planned.
The issue of clearing or indeed upgrading the unplanned settlements, where most of the cadres from all political parties are condemned to live, does not seem at all to be a political campaign issue worth being on the agenda.
A search for town planning options meant to enhance the quality of the newly developed residential areas is another item missing from these political campaign trails and neither is there an emerging plan to maximize the input from those professionals involved in the creation of Zambia’s built environment.
The mistaken belief that politicians are competent enough to handle environmental issues with minimum involvement from professionals has been with the Zambian society more or less since the attainment of political independence where political ward chairmen were in the forefront of spearheading urban development.
It is true that unlike in the unplanned settlement there is emerging on the scene some fairly durable and permanent residential structures being constructed in the “planned” settlements, however, construction of durable residential houses is not by itself a panacea to the provision of a quality built environment suitable for human occupation.
The size of plots and the plot layouts, for instance, could negatively impact on the quality of life if not handled with much thought.
Assessing and arriving at the appropriate size of, say, a residential plot would require an evaluation of space use analysis which would be adjusted to take into account, for instance, availability of services seems to be the major omission if you look at the size of most recently developed residential areas in all of Zambia’s towns and cities of the fact that in Zambia allocation of plots and their subsequent developments are always ahead of provision of such services as water supply and provision of sanitation services and as such an analysis of plot sizes cannot be equated to a situation where services are provided ahead of development.
While some have concluded that a low cost residential plot of around 300 square metres may be adequate to accommodate the plinth area of a low cost house, allow for some gardening and play space for children as well as room for some kind of storage space as is the case for the Very Low Cost (V.L.C.) plots in Lubuto residential area in Ndola which are about 360 square metres.
This analysis and plot size assessment may be acceptable only in residential areas that are already serviced with water and sewer services prior to development.
Pure and portable water supply is one of the most vital requirements of human needs and as for water meant for drinking the water must be portable and bacteriologically pure and this is the missing consideration when arriving at appropriate residential plot sizes.
In plots where services are not yet provided and recognizing the fact that water is essential to human life and a normal human being will daily continue to answer to the call of nature the implications of these two components on the size of residential plots ought to be addressed adequately and ensure practical implementation of the town planning solution so arrived at.
The location of wells on sites for the supply of water in relation to the sewage disposal systems is a major town planning consideration when assessing plot sizes.
If, for instance, there is a shallow well on a plot as is the case on most of the unplanned and newly “badly” planned settlements the suction line of the shallow well could be a source of danger because any leaks or openings in this pipe could be a path through which particles could be drawn into drinking water system.
Underground cross water contamination is also very possible where the well and the sewer soak away or cesspool is located too close to each other.
It is recommended that a sewer disposal field or seepage pit must be located at least 30.48 metres or preferably 45.72 metres from any water well. The current plot sizes of about 30 by 15 metres in areas that have neither piped water supply nor sewer disposal networks are inadequate and are obviously a potential health hazard, this has been made worse by the laissez faire attitudes adopted by planning authorities who seem to think their responsibility ends at allocation of plots and therefore offers no technical advices to developers who may not even be aware of the impeding danger.
Considerations to deal with adequate provision of fresh air, fire safety and access for servicing any septic tanks will have further impact on plot sizes.
These are all outstanding issues in managing the quality of life in Zambia’s built environment which ought to be part of campaign issues to be addressed in a meaningful manner by all serious political parties so that come January 20, 2015 the electorate will be able to cast reasoned votes rather than doubtful and meaningless sweet nothings.
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