Collective Servicing of Poor Regions of Zambia: A Lengthy Learning Process

Special Report: Networks in Cities of the Global South
By Anne Bousquet

Today, in Zambia, in terms of water supply, being disconnected means fetching water from alternative sources, taking a chance to be infected with water-borne diseases, like Cholera which is still claiming a good number of victims in the poorest Zambian urban districts. The current situation results from several decades of uncoordinated actions, led by the main water sector actors: ministries, local authorities, water departments then turned into water enterprises, NGOs, resident committees, donors…
Acknowledging the failure of free and public water supply, the water sector actors, governmental and non-governmental, strove to solve the problem of water supply to poor districts. They implemented a range of collective and fee-paying solutions. These experiments all proved hardly sustainable or fair. The newly established water regulator, NWASCO, decided to draw the lessons from the past and proposed to harmonise technical and management schemes. It is also bringing some new opportunities in establishing Water Watch Groups. Thus the situation of “unconnected” people has been highly improved through the successive experiments and their recognition by NWASCO and by public authorities. Whereas before, they were not allowed to voice their opinions as they were illegally occupying land, they are now included in supply perimeters of newly created water enterprises. But, despite those new dispositions, being recognised as “non connected” in Zambia is no guarantee to have a good and sustainable access to water in the future.

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