Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Water infrastructure needs investment

DESPITE the expansion of most towns, the size and capacity of the water infrastructure which includes water tanks and sizes of the water pipes have remained unchanged. This situation has over stretched many water utility companies in Zambia whose water and sewerage infrastructure was intended for fewer people than what they are catering for now. The infrastructure was then meant for probably less than two million people but the population has now grown to more than 13 million people. Sadly though, most of the water and sewerage utility companies continue to operate using this same old infrastructure which is dilapidated and at times characterised by many leakages which leads to a loss in treated water. In an effort to address the situation, the Government in June this year released K92 billion to the 11 water utility firms as emergency funds for them to improve part of the infrastructure. Mulonga Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) one of the three water utility companies on the Copperbelt received K15 billion under the emergency funding to improve the water supply reticulation system in low cost areas of Mufulira, Chililabombwe and Chingola. The company began with Mufulira where some residents in most of the low cost areas could hardly access piped water due to the damaged water pipes. Mulonga started with the laying of new pipes and excavation of the sewer network to ensure that there was less water loss emanating from leakages. MWSC managing director Manuel Mutale said the project was aimed at improving water supply to its clients in the district. He was certain that the improved water supply would cheer the residents but was quick to point out that the residents would require a proper sewer network. “We have worked on the water reticulation and we are happy because most of the work has been done to rectify the sewer system in Mufulira by carrying out excavation works and laying of pipes in Kansuswa Township,” he said. A total of K5 billion out of the K15 billion was allocated to Mufulira to improve water reticulation in Kamuchanga, Butondo and Kansuswa townships. Residents of Mufulira expressed happiness with the improved water reticulation by the water utility company. A resident of Kamuchanga Township Elliot Kalwila was happy that the water firm had fixed the hiccups the residents were facing in receiving piped water. He said life revolves around water. The initiative by the Government and Mulonga Water to improve the water reticulation would reduce the out break of water borne diseases for people that mainly depended on well water due to the lack of consistent supply of piped water. Mr Kalwila, who was excited by the development, said he was now receiving high pressured water 24 hours ever since the problem was worked on. “We are happy that Mulonga Water and Government decided to sort out this problem. We have suffered for a long time,” he said. Another resident of Butondo Township Cecilia Phiri said the people in the area had not received tapped water for more than 20 years. Ms Phiri said the improved water supply would help the welfare of the people as they would now embark on back-yard gardens. In Chingola, the company has laid a 16 inch pipeline from its Konkola Copper Mine (KCM) treatment plant to Lulamba Township at a cost of K1.5 billion. Mr Mutale said the Lulamba line which fed almost half of Chingola’s population was small and dilapidated, prompting the company to embark on immediate upgrading of the line using the emergency funds from the Government. He said the leaking of old line pipe is 12 inches in size but supplying Chikola, Chiwempala, Chabanyama, Lulamba, Twatasha and other new settlements. “The project was financed by Government through the Ministry of Local Government in its effort to improve water reticulation and sanitation standards in most of the townships,” he said. The replacement of the pipeline had covered a distance of 1.4 kilometres and each new pipe was 12 metres long, valued at K17 million each. He was optimistic that the project would help the company provide improved water supply to some clients who last received tap water about 20 years ago. Mr Mutale said leakages are hampering the company’s revenue base as the unaccounted for water stands at 42 per cent. The leakages alone reduce on the water pressure from the taps. Mr Mutale said after improving the water supply, the company would undertake a project to improve the sewer lines in Chingola. He said the projects were intervention measures aimed at giving customers water while the company was working on finding permanent solutions to the impending water problems. The permanent solution Mulonga Water was targeting to embark on to complete overhaul of its infrastructure which was projected at K500 billion (US$100 million). Mr Mutale said his water utility was pleased with President Michael Sata’s message during the official opening of Parliament in which he said that the Government would give grants to water utility companies. And a resident of Chikola B Township in Chingola, Florence Musonda was delighted that she was now able to receive treated water from her tap. Ms Musonda said things had changed as previously the people of Chikola had resorted to drinking water from wells resulting in many diarrhea diseases.

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