The K140m water bill

Sat, 07 Jan 2017 11:01:00 +0000

IT IS inconceivable that Lusaka water consumers, who are so vocal and critical about any slip-ups by the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC), can owe the water utility company a whooping K140 million in unpaid water bills.

The task to meet the daily domestic and industrial water needs of nearly 3 million residents scattered over a 40-km radius is a gigantic operation costing a lot of money. That is the job LWSC undertakes for 365 days a year and it is no laughing matter.

For the residents of this capital city to be curled up in their comfort zones when they know they have not paid for their water and sewerage services is unforgivable. They need to be hauled before a fast track court and put a gun to their heads to pay.

Because of our reluctance, others would say sabotage, to pay for water, the LWSC is facing serious challenges to improve service delivery in the midst of a ballooning population, escalating costs, tight monetary policy and shrinking pocket power of its consumers.

Managing director Sylvester Mashamba was at pains yesterday to try and explain what was happening to the company’s cash flow in view of thousands of domestic and commercial customers failing to fulfil their monthly water bill obligations.

The water utility company relies on its consumers to pay for its services for it to remain vibrant and embark on new projects that will meet the growing needs of an expanding metropolis like Lusaka. Right now the company is struggling to survive, let alone improve its services.

Faced with a hostile operating environment which include depleting water resources on account of lack of enough rainfall, the ever-menacing Zesco load shedding and the general tough economic situation in the country, LWSC must be commended for staying afloat.

But the resilient management is defying the odds and marching on to fulfil its mandate of providing safe water and sanitation services to the millions of its customers on a daily basis. It has even managed to make 3,000 new connections, feeding 30,000 new consumers with clean, safe drinking water last year alone.

It is also making headway in the implementation of various programmes including construction of the US $150 million bulk water project that will pump into the city’s water supply network an additional 50 million litres of water pay day.

The project includes a new water treatment plant, booster station in Chilanga and a 56-km pipeline from Kafue to Lusaka which is expected to be completed sometime in 2018. This is in addition to the much-vaunted Millenium Challenge Account water supply, sanitation and drainage project that is set to transform some of the city’s slums into modern townships marching into the 21st Century.

These are multi-billion Kwacha projects which, although some of them are donor funded, need money to be realised. The best form of development is one which is home-grown and locally funded. This is why Lusaka residents must deep into their pockets and pay for the water supplied to them.

It is not being patriotic to avoid or evade paying for an essential service provided by a national entity such as the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company. These are vital State-owned utilities which enrich our lives and enable us to work at whatever we do with a peace of mind, knowing that they will deliver.

That is why we must feel guilty that we owe such an institution money by failing to pay our monthly water bills. Next time there is no water in our homes we should shut up.

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