Anna Chikuni, a 67-year-oldresident of Katondo Site and Service, recently opened up about her nine-month ordeal of trying to access water to the MakanDay Centre for Investigative Journalism.
For the past nine months, Anna has had to walk a 10-minute distance to reach a place where a burst transmission pipe allows the community to access water. Living with her three young grandchildren, Anna faces the daunting task of fetching water for all their household needs, as there is no one else to help her.
"It's a long and tiring walk to fetch water. I have to carry heavy buckets on my head, and with only my young grandchildren here, there's no one to lend a hand," Anna explained.
Paying for a nonexistence service
Despite having a tap at home, no water comes out. However, to her dismay, the water utility company continues to bill her for water she has not been able to access.
"The bills keep coming every month, but there's no water flowing from the tap. Lukanga Water (and Sewerage Company) advised me to uproot the tap, thinking it might solve the issue, but still, nothing has changed," Anna lamented.
Due to the scarcity of water, Anna and others in the community are often forced to resort to purchasing water from individuals who have access to boreholes. However, this additional expense significantly adds to their already burdensome financial situation, as they have to buy water at K1 (0.052 US$) per container.
MakanDay had the chance to review one of Anna's water bills for May 2023, which amounted to K450 (US$ 24). Despite the high bill, Anna adamantly confirms that she never accessed any water from the tap during that time.
A survey of Katondo community by MakanDay, revealed that many households have uprooted their taps in a desperate move to stop receiving water bills.
Chikuni's story highlights the dire water scarcity situation in Katondo, and it's evident that immediate attention and solutions are needed to address this pressing issue and provide relief to the residents who are enduring these hardships.
The water company collecting money for a service that is not there.
Lukanga Water Supply and Sanitation Company Limited (LGWSC) is a privately owned company established in 2006 as a Commercial Utility (CU) with the noble objective of improving the delivery of water supply, sewerage, and sanitation services to both the urban and peri-urban populations in Central Province. However, regrettably, it appears that the company is currently experiencing challenges in fulfilling its mission, and the desired improvements are yet to be achieved.
Questions submitted to the company, including those regarding customers drawing water from the burst transmission pipe, were left unanswered.
However, the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) informed MakanDay that they are well aware of the erratic and intermittent water supply issues in parts of Kabwe, with some households receiving water below the specified "Service Level Guarantees (SLGs)."
The SLG is a formal agreement between a service provider and NWASCO, wherein the provider commits to delivering a specific and well-defined level of service at an agreed-upon price. The primary goal of this arrangement is to ensure that customers receive optimal value for their money.
Mpunga Simukwai, the Public Relations and Communications Manager of NWASCO, said the guidelines of NWASCO require the swift repair of leakages, including burst transmission pipes, to prevent water contamination. Customers are advised to report any unattended burst pipe incidents to the water supply company and obtain a complaint number for resolution.
Lukanga Water faces even more challenges as per the 2022 water sector report. The company failed to meet the national drinking water standards test, scoring only 75% instead of the required compliance score of 95%.
Additionally, the company also faltered on the confidence level due to various reasons. These include the poor state of testing equipment, the non-availability of laboratory manuals in districts, insufficient feedback on tests conducted, and a lack of adequate staff capacity.
Despite its failure to provide water to its customers, the NWASCO water sector report for 2022 reveals that Lukanga Water still managed to generate K53,652,498 in revenue from water and sewer charges from its over 409,500 customers (1).
Numerous programmes, such as the National Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (NUWSSP), have been established to support the nation’s 2030 vision. The NUWSSP, spanning from 2011 to 2030, focuses on improving the livelihood and health of the urban population in Zambia through enhanced water supply, sanitation, solid waste management, and drainage infrastructure and services.
The NUWSSP consists of a coherent set of institutional and sector support activities aimed at developing and sustaining water supply, sanitation, solid waste management and drainage infrastructure and services in the urban areas of Zambia.
The water and sanitation sector also receives a chunk from the national budget to support water supply and sanitation services.
Water, sanitation and hygiene budget
A total of K2.4 billion (US$134 million) was earmarked for water supply and sanitation services in the 2023 budget, signifying a 9% increase from the previous year's allocation of K2.2 billion (US$ 122.22 million). This budget allocation primarily aims to support the finalisation of water projects in Lusaka, Copperbelt, and Western Provinces (2).
However, failing to meet these financial commitments for the water sector will have grave consequences for citizens like Chikuni in Kabwe and many others, as they will continue to live without access to this essential necessity.
1. The company provides water in eight towns in the Central Province, including Kabwe, Mumbwa, Serenje, Mkushi, Kapiri Mposhi, Chibombo, Chisamba and Itezhi-tezhi. It is also in four new districts of Luano, Ngabwe, Chitambo and Shibuyunji.
2. A total of K2.4 billion (US$ 134million) was allocated towards water supply and sanitation services in the 2023 budget. This represents an increase of 9% compared to the 2022 allocation of K2.2 billion (US$ 122.22 million). This allocation was mainly to facilitate the completion of the Kafulafuta Dam Project under KWSC; counterpart funding for the Lusaka Sanitation Project under, LWSC; completion of the Integrated Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation project under Chambeshi, Western and Luapula WSCs; completion of the Transforming Rural Livelihoods in Western Zambia under WWSC; completion of the Nkana Water Supply and Sanitation Project under NWSC; and completion of the Zambia Water and Sanitation Project under MWSC (Source – NWASCO sector report 2022).