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Likangala River water spoiled

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HEALTH RISK—Sewer plant

While duty bearers commit to the promotion of hygiene in their areas of jurisdiction, more so now when cholera has been wreaking havoc in some parts of the country, it is business as usual in Zomba City, where, as TIYESE MONJEZA writes, untreated sewer materials freely flow into the water body, thereby putting innocent lives at risk.

For the past two years, Zomba City’s main sewer deposits, comprising untreated raw sewer materials, have been ending up in Likangala River, putting lives of thousands of people who use water from the river at risk of contracting cholera and other waterborne diseases.

When the Friday Shaker crew visited the site on Wednesday, it established that the sewer system developed a fault over 18 months ago, culminating into sewer water spilling into Likangala River.

The river, by design or coincidence, is located about 150 metres from the city’s main sewer facility.

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To make matters worse, there is neither a fence nor physical presence of security personnel.

Instead, people, most of whom without such protective gear as gloves, are seen collecting untreated sewer materials into buckets.

One of them told us that they do not work for the city council.

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“Instead, we take advantage of lack of security personnel to collect the deposits and use them as manure in our gardens,” said a man who declined to be named for fear of attracting the ire of the authorities.

People work there despite that there is an unpleasant smell, more so in Chikanda Township, where the sewer facility is located.

There is a drain that stretches from the site of sewer material deposits to the river. Much of the water in the drain is greenish.

Children, oblivious of the smell, take turns to bath in the sewer material-infested river while adults wash clothes in the same.

Chipiliro Chitenje from Chilupsya Village said people in the area have reached the extent where they have accepted fear as part of life.

“We fear that we may contract cholera and other waterborne diseases. We are also afraid that, maybe in the long term, we may develop health complications. We fear for the future.

“Every day, we wake up and inhale this polluted air. When we have dry taps, we use water from the river for cooking and children play in the river. We believe that the rising cases of diarrhoea we register among children are a result of drinking contaminated water from the river,” Chitenje said.

She called on Zomba City Council officials to rehabilitate the site.

Another resident, Steve Symon, said, during the rainy season, sewer dams swell and water with a nauseating smell floods residents’ houses.

“We suspect that council officials are negligent because, even though we have raised concerns over the issue, nothing happens. We feel neglected,’’ Symon said.

Village Head Kazembe said the council should just close the sewer facility if it cannot manage it.

“When they constructed this sewer facility over 20 years ago, they pledged that they would be taking care of this site. It is a pity that they have neglected the facility. We demand immediate action now,” Kazembe said.

According to Kazembe, there are over 9,000 people from Chikanda, Kazembe and Kazembe villages that stay close to Likangala River and the sewer facility.

Zomba City Council acting Chief Executive Officer Fred Nankuyu said he needed ample time to respond to the issues raised.

However, during a full council meeting on Friday, where the Likangala River issue was one of the items on the agenda, the city council’s chief engineer Mayamiko Kabango conceded that spillage from the main sewer plant into Likangala River was actually untreated sewer material.

Kabango said the council was facing financial challenges to conduct maintenance works at the sewer plant.

“We temporarily plan to hire 10 workers to clean the sewer and stop the spillage. The challenge has been that the sewer site has no fence and people vandalise property at the site. This leads to malfunctioning of the system but we are trying our level best to address the problem,” Kabango said.

An insider confided in Friday Shaker that the council needs K1.2 billion to conduct maintenance works.

Meanwhile, Zomba Civil Society Organisations Chairperson Sammy Aaron has said they plan to engage the council on the issue.

“It is very unfortunate that the council, which is expected to provide quality services, has, in this case, been failing to do that. We will engage them so that they can rectify the problem,” he said.

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