Poor water quality due to weak regulatory framework – Sinkamba

By Staff Reporter

OPPOSITION Green Party president Peter Sinkamba has attributed the provision of poor quality of water to weak regulatory and institutional framework.

Reacting to recent reports of poor water quality supplied by water utility companies in Lusaka and Copperbelt, Sinkamba bemoaned weak drinking water quality guidelines and standards which resulted in water borne endemic diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

“As the Green Party, we are extremely worried with the status quo where the country lacks an institutional and legal framework to provide adequate oversight on provision of quality water and sanitation services in the country,” Sinkamba said.

“You know, following the launch of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, member states of the UN, especially those of us in the developing countries category were supposed to develop and enact guidelines for provision of quality water and sanitation services because these aspects were some of the goals intended to be achieved by 2015.

 

However, as Zambia we have failed to do 18 years on, and this is very depressing to some of us,” he said.

Sinkamba said the two pieces of legislation which were enacted in the 1990s do not address drinking water quality guidelines.

“First of all we have the Waste Water Regulations of 1994 which are enforced through ZEMA. The focus for these regulations is to control pollution of surface and groundwater systems. So ZEMA provides permits for discharge of effluents and wastewater in accordance with these regulations but these are not drinking water quality standards but pollution standards,” Sinkamba said.

“Secondly, we have the Water Supply and Sanitation Act of 1997 which establishes NWASCO. Though the Act empowers NWASCO to establish and enforce water supply and sanitation services, including establishing and enforcing drinking water quality standards and guidelines, this institution has failed to do so in the last 10 years or so. Sadly, the focus for NWASCO is merely issuance of licences to utilities and approval of exorbitant tariffs and other exploitative charges. And this is our point of departure,” he said.

Sinkamba said the current institutional and legal framework for provision of water and sanitation services in Zambia is archaic and required a complete overhaul to safeguard lives of the people.

“The burden of disease in the country is very high. Our hospitals are overwhelmed. They are failing to provide quality services due to limited capacity. Therefore, as a way forward, there is urgent need to be proactive so that we avoid certain preventable disease outbreaks such as cholera and dysentery which result from poor water quality and sanitation.

“Government needs to overhaul the archaic institutional and regulatory framework for water supply and sanitations so as to sanitize the entire system. There is need for sanity in the provision of these services. NWASCO, ZEMA, and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission should all be overhauled so as to safeguard and protect consumers against unhealthy and unfair trade practices in the provision of water and sanitation services,” he stated.

Sinkamba stated that if government failed to modernize the regulatory and institutional framework in the water supply and sanitation sector, his party would have no option but move a private member’s motion in parliament sometime this year with a view to sanitize the situation.

“The primary role of government is to address causes not effects. If government fails to do so in the first sitting of parliament this year, we will have no choice but move a private member’ s motion in parliament to enact the measures intended to bring sanity in this regard. We think that 10 years of insanity in the sector is enough,” he said.