NO one would have imagined that burial space would at one time be a problem in Zambia where land is abundant.
Now with the increase in population with its attendant rise in deaths, burial space in some places especially urban areas is becoming a thorny issue.
Due to land shortage, some unscrupulous people in some parts of the country have even gone to the extent of encroaching on cemeteries!
It is in view of the many buildings that have mushroomed in Lusaka over the years that the Lusaka City Council (LCC) has failed to expand the existing cemeteries to meet the high demand.
Currently, the Chunga, Chingwere, Old and New Leopards Hill cemeteriesin Lusaka, which are managed by the LCC, are full!
Lusaka Town Clerk Alex Mwansa recently disclosed that owing to the four cemeteries being filled, the local authority resorted to using‘in fills’ as burial spaces.
Mr Mwansa said also that because the LCC had no available land within its boundaries, it opted to look elsewhere.
Mr Mwansa was happy to disclose that the Lusaka local authority has identified eight sites ideal for the establishment of cemeteries in Chibombo, Chongwe, Kafue and Shibuyunji districts.
The eight sites, with the exception of those on traditional land in Mungule area and Lusaka East Forest, are on title and privately owned.
Mr Mwansa said LCC engaged those neighbouring district councils regarding their land, but that the response has not been positive.
He said: “Lusaka city has no available land within its boundaries for establishing cemeteries since all the land in the city has been built on. Land may only be available from the neighbouring districts such as Chibombo, Chongwe, Kafue and Shibuyunji.
“In order to address this important matter, the Lusaka City Council has engaged neighbouring districts and the central government. The response from the neighbouring districts has so far not been positive.”
The negative response has not deterred the LCC from sourcing for land from the districts in question especially that it would benefit all the areas.
The LCC has continued to engage the neighbouring district councils through the Ministry of Local Government and Housing with a view of establishing joint cemeteries.
The LCC has also approached the Ministry of Lands, Environment and Natural Resources through the Office of the Commissioner of Lands, to help with possible acquisition of the said parcels of land.
The response from the Commissioner of Lands is still being awaited.
Having verified the cemetery crisis in Lusaka, Local Government and Housing Minister Stephen Kampyongo believes the solution lies in district councils collaborating.
To ensure that the district councils collaborate in addressing the cemetery land shortage, Mr Kampyongo has called for a meeting in which he is expected to engage officials from the district councils in question.
“Even after my tour I did indicate that there was need for collaboration between the local authorities because it’s only a fact that we don’t have available land near Lusaka city, so there will be need to collaborate with other local authorities,” he said.
He said there are serious discussions to address the matter in order to find a permanent solution to the burial space crisis.
It is hoped that Mr Kampyongo will during the proposed meeting convince the Chibombo, Chongwe, Kafue and Shibuyunji district councils to come to the aid of the LCC.
The cemetery crisis LCC is facing should be an eye-opener to other district councils when it comes to land allocation.
Local authorities in other districts should ensure that they have adequate land for themselves before offering huge tracts of land to individuals or companies.
There is need for local authorities country wide to seriously start repossessing land for their own use if it remains undeveloped for more than three years instead of continuing issuing threats without acting.
Issuing threats has now become a cliché and thus there is need for stiff punishment to be meted out on people encroaching on other people’s land.
The same punishment should be meted against individuals allocating land which is not theirs.
The burial space crisis is a serious one and calls for un-Zambian disposal practices like cremation which though alien might offer a solution to lack of burial space.