Residents in the vicinity of the sewer ponds are concerned that if immediate action is not taken to address the burst sewer ponds, it may potentially trigger a cholera outbreak, particularly with the approach of the rainy season.
Uncontrolled urban expansion, coupled with the challenges of enforcing zoning regulations, has resulted in the sewer ponds in Garden, a neighbourhood located to the north-east of Lusaka town, being encircled by residential developments. Garden compound is among Lusaka's high-density neighbourhoods, many residents there fall into the low-income category.
Mcheta Nyirenda, a resident whose house directly faces the ponds, expressed frustration, stating that it has been nearly a month since effluent began spilling into the compound due to a blockage.
He mentioned that the Lusaka Water Sewerage Company (LWSC) did respond to the issue promptly upon reporting, sending an excavator to the scene. However, the machine got stuck in the effluent, and despite their attempts to facilitate drainage and redirect the effluent back into the ponds, the problem continues to worsen with each passing day," said Mcheta.
Another resident, Jayson Phiri, who works as a teacher at a nearby school directly opposite the receiving-split chamber, highlighted that the overflowing effluent is severely affecting the concentration and effective learning of children, ranging from pre-grade to primary level. He said this distressing situation not only hinders their education but also poses a significant health risk to these young learners.
"We earnestly appeal to LWSC to address this issue promptly to safeguard the well-being of our youth and our community as a whole,” he said.
Engineer Reagan Mulumba, the Sanitation Manager for LWSC, said the Manchinchi (Garden)wastewater treatment plant, constructed around 40 years ago, has been experiencing failures over the years due to factors like aging and vandalism. He said as part of the Lusaka Sanitation Programme (LSP), the government is planning to decommission the Garden sewer ponds and replace them with a modern sewage treatment plant in the Ngwerere area.
Mulumba explained that the Manchinchi plant in Garden has lost its capacity “to effectively remove grit and bio solids from wastewater”, leading to their accumulation in the ponds, particularly affecting the receiving chamber and delivery lines.
Additionally, the theft of manhole covers by some community members has allowed sand and garbage to enter the sewer system, posing a risk of blockages, he said.
Mulumba disclosed that construction of new sewage treatment plant is part of the LSP project funded by international financial institutions, including the African Development Bank (AfDB), World Bank (WB), German Development Bank (KfW), and European Investment Bank (EIB).
He noted that the original completion timeline for the programme in 2022 had to be extended due to concerns about the government's debt situation, resulting in delays in the construction of the new sewage treatment plant. As of 2023, construction has not yet begun, and the existing plant is experiencing systematic failures.
To address the current situation at garden sewer ponds, LWSC is implementing interim measures, including diverting sewage flow from the garden Sewage Treatment Plant to the Ngwerere sewer ponds for at least a week. This diversion, said Mulumba will create a clear pathway for sanitary staff to manually remove the accumulated silt.