THE announcement by Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company yesterday that it has shut down the Chongwe water treatment plant because there is no water to pump into the town after the nearby Chongwe River dried up, should be treated with the seriousness it deserves.
Chongwe, a satellite town 45 km north-east of Lusaka, is one of Zambia’s fastest growing towns, surrounded by rich farmland whose plots have been snapped up by developers who regard the area as simply an extension of the capital city.
The town of more than 6,000 residents sits on a plateau overlooking Lusaka and one of its greatest disadvantages is that it is one of the very few places in Zambia which has no ground water.
Now the Lusaka water utility company has sought the intervention of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit under the office of the Vice President to deal with the crisis where water has to be transported from Lusaka into the Chongwe reservoir tanks to feed the town.
This is a massive operation which cannot be borne by the LWSC alone, which has neither the resources nor the capacity to handle such an emergency. How much water would one need to transport in tankers and bowsers to satisfy the needs of an entire town every day for the next two to three months until the rains fill up the Chongwe River again?
Chongwe town and its residents are the latest victims of global warming, that dreadful phenomenon which threatens the evolution of life as we know it on this planet. It has caused the water table to sink even further and surface water has evaporated so fast like boiled water, drying up the river and all sources of water that the people depended on.
This was why President Lungu found it necessary to fly to New York recently to join hundreds of world leaders to sign the United Nations-sponsored Paris Agreement on Climate Change to mitigate this new human challenge that could wipe out life on earth.
It has now been accepted that the global climate is rapidly warming up and becoming increasingly unstable due to man’s insatiable appetite for the so-called good life in form of industrialization which drives carbon pollution that causes climate change.
Carbon pollution is mainly created by the reckless behavior of developed countries but its devastating effects manifest themselves more in poor, under-developed nations who lack the resources, the knowhow and technologies to deal with the crisis.
Climate change causes severe droughts and floods, resulting in serious food shortages which have characterized Southern Africa over the past few years. It also causes resource depletion, deforestation, desertification, rising sea levels and water table loss, as is the case in Chongwe.
If not mitigated on a large scale and with the right mix of scientific and adaptation techniques, climate change is the main driver of poverty and pandemics, often leading to political instability.
In the case of Chongwe which has no underground water, it means Government investing in a costly borehole drilling project 11 km from the town, hoping to find enough water to create a well field that will supply the town during the dry seasons.
These are the new challenges of the modern era which are hard to predict. With the 2017 national Budget being assembled, one can feel sorry for its architects who must plan for the impossible.