CARELESSLY discarded plastic bags and waste materials such as baby diapers and electronic appliances are mainly responsible for pollution of streams in most of our towns and Ndola is not an exceptional.
The banks of water bodies such as Kafubu stream that once provided natural beauty have been encroached upon by heaps of litter.
This is coming on the heels of annual urban flooding that has become a major concern for some residents of major towns where indiscriminate dumping of waste is now rife.
For several decades, waterlogging during the rainy season owing to floods caused by indiscriminate dumping of waste has been a common problem in different townships such as Chifubu, Lubuto, Masala and Chipulukusu in Ndola.
Streets get waterlogged after just a few minutes of rainfall as the water cannot freely flow because the drainages are clogged almost completely, mainly by plastic bags, electronic waste and diapers thrown in the streams and nearby drainages.
Interestingly, in 2018, Zambia became one of the countries to come up with the extended producer regulations which extend the responsibility to regulate non-returnable glass, plastic bottles, cartons, beverage cans, waste oils, pesticides, chemical containers, used tyres, electrical and electrical equipment.
But the mentioned items are thrown anywhere and everywhere, especially in Chifubu and Kafubu streams in Ndola.
This is notwithstanding that in order to stiffen the laws on waste management, in March this year, Parliament adopted a National Assembly Bill number 6 of 2023 on the environmental management(amendment) to amend the Environmental Management Act, of 2011.
The piece of legislation aims to revise the functions of the Zambia Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA) in order for the authority to harmonize the provisions relating to solid waste management with the solid waste regulation and management Act of 2018.
The Bill is also meant to domesticate the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer.
Further, the Bill also seeks to provide for the registration of pesticides or toxic substances, revise the provision on summary imposition on penalties and provide for matters connected with, or incidental, to the foregoing.
A person who contravenes subsection (1) of the environmental amendment Bill of 2023 commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding seven hundred thousand penalty units or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or to both.
But despite the existence of laws to penalise offenders, residents in sprawling townships such as Nkwazi, Chifubu, Lubuto, Chipulukusu and others have continued to wantonly pollute the local streams which also act as their sources of water for domestic use.
As for the residents in Chifubu Township, the Chifubu Stream has of late been clogged with different types of waste, such as plastics, diapers and electronic waste.
Surprisingly, the residents fetch water for their domestic use from the same polluted source.
Some residents interviewed by the author claimed that the waste finds its way into the stream because some private waste collectors take a long time to collect the garbage.
However others such as Chola Kalipenta of Lubuto West explained that some residents resort to dumping the waste in the Kafubu stream at night.
She was quick to acknowledge that since the invention of disposable baby diapers several years ago, consumption has sky-rocketed and along with the increase in use of disposables came numerous environmental consequences.
It is a well-known fact that the pollution of water systems caused by used diapers is becoming obvious in many communities.
Disposable diapers create large quantities of waste which is pushing the water bodies to the limits of sustainability.
Added to the conundrum, some television, radio, phones and other electronic gadget repairers also just dump the waste anyway and in the end the discarded material finds itself in water bodies such as Kafubu and Chifubu on the Copperbelt.
When it comes to electronics (e-waste), environmental expert Paul Bwalya of Ndola warns that heavy metals from e-waste, such as mercury, lithium, lead and barium, leak through the earth even further to reach groundwater.
According to Mr Bwalya, when the waste passes through the pathways, acidification and toxification are created in the water, which is unsafe for human beings even if they are miles away from a recycling site.
He adds that acidification can kill marine and freshwater organisms, disturb biodiversity and harm ecosystems.
True to his words, what is obtaining in Ndola on the Copperbelt as regards polluting of water bodies mirrors what is happening in several communities in Zambia.
Solutions to the problem of discarded waste are complex, and involve a collective effort from change of mindset at household and community level.
Other key stakeholders in finding solutions to the problem include the civil society organisations, community leaders, government departments such as ZEMA and various players such as manufacturers of goods.