By MAYA NTANDA –
THE power outages experienced in the past due to heavy concentration of power plants in the Southern part of the country which is prone to major droughts, is lesson enough to venture more into the North.
Regions like Luapula have huge water bodies suitable for power generation and agriculture ventures that can support the economic growth of Zambia.
Luapula’s water expanse has the capacity to support economic activities, with the potential of contributing more to the country’s economic growth.
A well managed water resource can support the growth of fishing, agriculture, energy and tourism among others.
Luapula River which forms a frontier with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly the Katanga Province, stretches its swamp-like system into Lakes Mweru and Bangweulu.
Due to the geographical set up that this magnificent river attracts, it is inevitable that it is utilised to full potential, for the benefit of the country.
One way of ensuring that its water resources are managed, is through the formation of a corporate body- the Luapula River Authority (LRA).
Like the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), jointly owned by Zambia and Zimbabwe in the management of Lake Kariba and Zambezi River, in the Southern part of Zambia, the establishment of the LRA will ensure that there is sustainability in the usage of water resources along the Luapula River basin shared between Zambia and DRC.
It is against this background that authorities in Luapula Province came up with an idea to create a platform for dialogue and networking among the many players in the water and energy sectors from both Zambia and DRC.
The province recently hosted experts, not only under the water and energy sectors, but among various companies and business organisations to share ideas on how to improve the sectors.
Dubbed the Luapula Water and Energy Conference, the event was held under the theme: ‘Sustainable Energy development within and beyond Luapula’.
It was hosted on the shores of Lake Bangweulu in the beautiful tourism district of Samfya and organised by Africast.
Companies like Zesco Limited , Professional Insurance Corporation Zambia, Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC), Zanaco and Workers Compensation Control Board (WCCB) among others, also participated in the event.
Delegates from DRCs, Haut-Katanga Province led by Governor Jacques Kyabula Katwe were also in attendance.
Discussions were drawn on topics like: harnessing the economic development of Luapula and Katanga provinces, understanding the key regulations in the water and energy sectors- investment facilitations and do’s and don’ts, transboundary integrated water and energy resources management, recognising investment opportunities in energy and best practise for sustainable investments.
Climate change impacts on water resources- adaptation and infrastructure was also discussed.
But of significance at the conference, is the intention to promote dialogue among experts to help the province, and the country at large develop using its water resources.
This embraces the establishment of the LRA.
Immediate past Luapula Province minister, Nickson Chilangwa explains that when the area held the Luapula Expo and Investment conference in 2017, it had seven key sectors of focus to promote, and these are: Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, Energy, Tourism, Livestock and Mining.
The province has received investment pledges in all these sectors.
Mr Chilangwa says lessons were learnt from the Luapula expo that energy is key to any meaningful investment in any sector.
He informs the delegates that Zesco and Société Nationale d’Électricité (SNEL) an electricity company in DRC have reached an advanced stage in terms of wanting to develop a hydro power company on the Luapula River.
“It is therefore, our considered view that there is an urgent need to set up a special purpose vehicle in the name of Luapula River Authority which will ensure that there is sustainability of utilisation of the water resourced along the Luapula River Basin,” he says.
Mr Chilangwa’s counterpart in the ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection former minister, Raphael Nakachinda is also of the view that the establishment of LRA will profitably undertake to sustain the development of the Luapula River for multi-purpose uses for the benefit of Zambia and DRC.
He says Government has proposed for LRA as a special purpose vehicle to address the water resource management of the entire Luapula River basin.
Mr Nakachinda says the LRA initiative has immense benefits that will accrue to both countries, and these benefits include increased investments in energy, agriculture, transport, tourism and fisheries.
“These investments have potential to boost the economic development of our country and contribute to poverty reduction.
There is need for sustainable management of water resources as this is critical for the national energy security,” he adds.
Mr Nakachinda says the envisioned effective harnessing of the abundant water resources in Luapula Province will transform the water and energy sectors as well as contribute to the socio-economic development of the region and the country at large.
The former minister adds that Luapula River is one of the country’s big water bodies whose potential is yet to be exploited to support various economic activities.
Mr Nakachinda says the water resource therefore requires a regional or bilateral water governance structure to ensure sustainable management, development and conservation of the river and its ecosystems.
At the same event, President Edgar Lungu, represented by former Energy minister , Matthew Nkhuwa states that no country has ever developed without paying particular attention to its water and energy sectors because these are key drivers of economies worldwide.
Mr Lungu says water has been a source of livelihood for many people in rural areas, with the fishing industry in Luapula province being heavily dependent on water resources that the province has.
He is delighted to learn that the LRA is in the pipeline of being established to address the water resource management of the entire Luapula River basin.
“This event could not have come at a better time than now when we need to find practical solutions on how to manage our water resources, at the same time increase our energy generation potential.
It is of common knowledge that this country, Zambia holds a larger amount of the water resources in the entire Southern African Development Community region. We must at all times focus on how best
we can utilise these water resources for the benefit of our people,” says President Lungu.
The DRC delegation also made presentations, with SNEL pledging to work with Zesco to give reality to the joint hydro- power projects on which the two companies have been working on.
After all is said and done, water, as an economic good, contributes to the prosperity of the nation, therefore the establishment of the LRA will help derive the highest benefits from the water and energy sectors.