‘This increase is partly attributed to rapid urbanization and growth of slums and unplanned settlements
Since utility companies were state owned entities and government was suffering from serious trade deficits which had enormous implications on its budget, income, and its abilities to honour loan obligations to bilateral and multilateral partners, LWSC among other parastatals companies suffered from the malaise curtailing funding.
in Lusaka, as this is the only province which showed a decline in access to safe drinking water between
2006 and 2010,’ the report says.
This has resulted in the unplanned neighbourhoods often becoming susceptible to water-borne diseases.
Women and children suffer the brunt of the disease burden and many more are lumbered with the
responsibility of drawing water for their homes. This leaves women little time to earn a living or carry out
other responsibilities while many children’s education has been totally or partially disrupted as a result of
poverty and performing these essential chores for their family.
Pamela Kasese Bwalya, the CEO of Millennium Challenge Account - Zambia (MCA Zambia) explains
that the core problem of Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company Limited (LWSC), the entity responsible
for providing water and sanitation services within the city, has been its inability to provide an efficient
water and sanitation service to Lusaka residents because of its outdated infrastructure that has not been
rehabilitated for the last 30 years.
In order to improve progress on meeting the MDG target 7, which aims to half the proportion of the
population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015, government
undertook national water reforms and created commercial water and sewerage utility companies.
LWSC was setup as a commercial entity in 1998 and has slowly recorded successes and challenges in
providing water and sanitation services. Among its success is its transformation from a loss making
company in 2003, to a highly profitable one. It is no longer a liability to government and has improved the quality of its service, but like most utility companies in the country LWSC cannot embark on an expansion of its infrastructure as it lacks financing and capacity.
In fact, in 2008 LWSC’s mandate was extended to cover all of Lusaka province, including the councils of
Chongwe, Kafue and Luangwa as the newest shareholders of the company further stretched its limited
The Lusaka City Council (LCC), the local government entity responsible for managing Lusaka’s drainage
infrastructure, faces a similar lack of investment to its drainage infrastructure, but what has become even more apparent over the years as the city has struggled with floods is that the existing drainage system was never adequately developed to begin with.
Faced with the burden of the capital city lacking adequate water supply and coupled with the increased
water-borne diseases threat, government submitted the Lusaka Water Supply, Sanitation and Drainage
(LWSSD) project to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) for consideration in 2010.
This initiative taken by government to partner with the U.S. government’s MCC and transacting through
the Millennium Challenge Account Zambia (MCA-Zambia) has the full support of LWSC and the LCC.
World bank and IMF austerity - got us here Leonard Shang-Quartey, policy analyst, Water and Health, Integrated Social Development Center (ISODEC) Ghana, examining the historical basis of why governments and the utility companies failed to invest in their essential infrastructure of water and sanitation for such a long term says the problem is slightly more complex than simply a lack of policy and long term strategy that is regularly cited as one major cause of insufficient progress in the sector.
While this maybe true today, this was certainly not the case 30 years ago when most water utilities began experiencing serious operational constraints due to World Bank and IMF policies, he says.
The policy difficulties government was facing from the two financing institutions coincided around that
period, with a major shift in global economic thought; which viewed state intervention in critical sectors
of the economy, to neoliberal economic thought that preferred the deregulation of markets and their
unfettered operation, Shang-Quartey says.
This thought became dominant in the IMF and World Bank and influenced structural adjustment austerity packages that they prescribed not only to Zambia but to other struggling African economies at that time.
This point is fundamental and cannot be divorced from any comprehensive analysis of the access deficit
in the water and sanitation sector as well as to other essential services sectors provided by government.
The austerity measures enforced by the World Bank and IMF, Shang-Quartey says, resulted in deterioration of facilities, poor conditions for staff and a mass exodus of expert staff. In the face of the resulting difficulties, only one option for the government remained - the option of full cost recovery and of privatisation. This sealed the expectations of any funding for the sector as investors found the water sector highly risky to invest in because the consumers were mostly poor and profits compared to the infrastructure investment required in the sector were marginal if at all.
The utility companies, including LWSC, performed poorly in the ensuing years that followed.
A new chapter – MCC Compact signing
Overall, Zambia has made progress in increasing access to improved drinking water since 1990, but the rate of progress is too slow to achieve the Millennium Development Goal target of 25.5 percent by 2015. The proportion of the population without access to an improved water source decreased from 51 percent in 1991 to 36.9 percent in 2010. At global level the water target was met five years ahead of schedule.
On 10 May 2012, government signed a five-year $354.8 million compact with the MCC towards the LWSSD project, says Bwalya. The compact will help in addressing LCC and LWSC’s most binding constraints to economic growth, as the grant will invest in the infrastructure of water, sanitation and drainage. In excess of 1 million Lusaka residents will benefit from the infrastructure expansion with the key recipients being the residents of the poorest city areas.
Launched in 2004, MCC pushes the boundaries of how aid is delivered and it is different from most other U.S. government federal grant in that it focuses on investment rather than aid to enhance economic growth and reduce poverty. Programmes are designed to ensure sustainable progress even after MCC funding has ended.
MCA - The job at hand
The current demand for water in Lusaka is 370 million litres daily while LWSC has a production capacity of 258 million litres. This leaves a shortfall of 112 million litres daily.
Bwalya says, MCA will assist rehabilitate LWSC’s core water supply network and see the upgrading of its main plant - the Iolanda water treatment plant in Kafue including its distribution and the transmission lines. Iolanda water treatment plant is 42 years old and is operating at around 80 % of its design capacity.
The water plant facilitates that will be rehabilitated and expanded include; Chelston water supply network which distributes water service to Mtendere, Kamanga, and the new residential areas of Kwamwena and Ndeke-Vorna Valley; and the Central water supply network which distributes water service to Ng’ombe, SOS East and Chipata settlement.
Improving the core water network will also address ‘non-revenue water’, this simply means water that is unaccounted for and goes to waste as a result of the network’s dilapidated state and leakages will be reduce, says Bwalya.
‘45% of water is lost in this way and we want to reduce it to 25% by the end of the project.’
Bwalya explains that while the compact does not facilitate the supply and installation of pre-paid water meters - a responsibility that is carried out by LWSC – their installation is one of the conditionality’s signed in the compact which is based on sustainability and aims to curtail revenue loss that arises from fixed flat rate billing, illegal connections and the inefficient use of water by consumers. Government also agreed to install pre-paid meters at all public institutions as a way of continued support to financially strengthening LWSC and LCC in revenue collection. However, a few institutions like the Chelstone police and the army barracks remain on post-paid and discussions are on going to move them to the pre-paid system.
By 2013 the total number of pre-paid water meter connections exceeded 117,000. Construction of water kiosks is on going, including the drilling and equipping of commercial boreholes in unplanned settlement. They totaled over 126 last year.
Two new water reservoirs will be constructed in Lusaka under the compact to further secure water supply.
Bwalya further explains that to mitigate the risk of a slow down or reversal of the ongoing sector reform efforts, the compact includes a ‘Sustainability Agreement’ with operational, financial and sector milestones tied to funding disbursements to ensure ongoing reforms continue. The sustainable agreements include the ‘conditions precedent’ or what any business person would call ‘deal breakers’ in that had government rejected these conditions, Zambia would have not have been a party to any MCC partnership. By agreeing to the conditions precedent the compact’s entry-into-force (EIF) was signed15 November 2013 and will expire November 18, 2018, five (5) years to date.
Zambia is unlikely to achieve the MDG target of 13 percent by 2015 says the UN. It could be that when the choice is between prioritizing water or sanitation, water comes up top. This could explain why sanitation it is a small component of the compact. Bwalya says the commitment involves the rehabilitation and expansion of Chelston and Kaunda Square sewer sheds to increase the capacity of the sanitation treatment ponds which aim to stop sewer overflow, especially during the rainy season.
Booster pump stations will also be rehabilitated in Chilanga, Chelston, Salama while a new pump stations will be constructed in Kaunda Square.
The truth of the matter is unnerving
‘Of particular concern is the peri-urban area of Mutendere where we want to connect the households to waterborne sewer system. This involves extending the main sewer system in order to expand household sanitation connections. Mtendere residents will be the biggest beneficiaries of this project because they will have a comprehensive package of both individual household water and sanitation connections.’
Bwalya says the focus on Mutendere is deliberate and the decision was made on expert advice due to the very important role it plays in the supply of clean water. She explains that because Mutendere sits in a water recharge area, where water is naturally captured underground, most of Lusaka city’s borehole water originates from there including 11% of the water that is supplied by LWSC. The engineers cautioned that because most residents in Mutendere use pit latrines, if nothing is done to change the current status quo the underground water source would be contaminated.
This revelation highlights why it is important to harness an integrated and balanced approach to managing water supply that recognizes the interconnection of land use from surface to ground water quality. The UN MDG stats are equally revealing saying a total of 73.1% of all households used pit latrines with or without slab in 2010 and only 13.1% of Zambians have access to flush toilets, with the highest proportion found on the Copperbelt.
‘There is a huge infrastructure component on drainage,’ Bwalya says. Mapping out the areas earmarked for rehabilitation that includes the notoriously popularly Bombay drain running from Libala South, through parts of the Kamwala trading area, along Lumumba road, City Market, Intercity Bus Terminus, Lamya House, Evelyn Hone, Zesco through to Northmead, Garden compound and ending into the Ngwerere Stream.
Insufficient maintence and inadequate drainage infrastructure has reeked havoc on the city exacerbating endemic flooding that has had negative health impacts, caused endless traffic jams, accidents and shortened business and working hours for residents.