(EN) Pollution and drying up of Lunhkwakwa River in Chipata District-Eastern Zambia

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Pollution is one of the major problems Chipata is facing and it is amazing that little is done to address this problem. Many people when asked about pollution of the environment, all the say is that it’s the duty of the municipal council to tackle it. No one is taking responsibility for pollution.

One of the most polluted rivers in Eastern Province of Zambia is Lunhkwakwa River that passes through the central business area of Chipata district. This river has been in existence since time in memorial and it has been the source for water for the garden farmers along its banks because it never used to dry up until about five (5) years ago.

It was the main source of water for farms and villages along it. Mr. Phiri Ernest of Chimzele farms which is along this river said he came to the area 32 years ago and the river never use to get dry which made him to be a fisher man for about fifteen years. “I was fishing from this river and used to make a lot of money from it, you see this are was my area of fishing” he pointed at a little pond filled with sand were water used to settle when there is no rains. “This river was big that we were not allow by our parents to cross it during rain season when going to school at Nyakutwa Primary school, that time their was no bridge” a Mr. Tembo said.

I was born here and brought up here, so I know this river very well. “People in town are just damping things into this river forgetting that that’s were some of us are getting water to drink from” said Mrs. Mwale an old woman whose garden has dried up due to lack of water to water the plants.” I was doing gardening for the past 30 years and I was doing it all year round but now people are saying cement is sucking up the water because most of the buildings in town are belt in the river. I no longer have my garden, my land was sold out and as u see the river is dry so the gardens are gone”. Asked why the river is drying up, she says she does not know why, but she suspects cement which people say sucks water as time goes by.

Most parts of the river are polluted with used up cans and plastics especially in down town shopping area where it passes through and most of its banks along DK (David Kaunda) area is filled with the unemployed youths who molding bricks.

A survey taken shows that up to 70% of the river is polluted and most of it is dry. No one is ready to take a step to prevent the river from drying up because no one has the idea as to why the river is drying up. “The local authority has a lot of responsibilities and it is up to the community to take care of this river said a local civil servant who never wanted to be mentioned. “We are doing a lot of work for this town and people have to be responsible for the river” he said.

And the brick molders along the same river say they that they know that they are contributing to the drying up of the river but have no option because that is their only source of income so if they (local authority) chase as from here, we will suffer. We don’t have jobs; this is what we can do for now they said.

And when asked why the river was drying up, the brick molders say it was also because in recent years, it is becoming hotter in October and that the rains are not enough as in the past years. ’’It is usually very hot hence more water evaporates and cement is sucking up water.You know a lot of people here are building along this river so cement is sucking up the water said a 21 years old school dropout John Msimuko who has been molding bricks since he left school in 2008.

The pollutants of Lunhkwakwa River include domestic waste, metal objects, plastics, papers and cloths. These pollutants are classified as non hazardous because they are biodegradable which means they can be made to rot by bacteria and water said an environmental expert. But for plastic and metal particles the story is different because they take many years to decay.

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