It is disappointing that government has failed to implement measures to effectively address recurring flash floods that keep engulfing some parts of the country, says the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR).

In a statement released, Tuesday, the JCTR stated that government ought to have implemented strong mechanisms such as improved infrastructure to effectively mitigate flash flooding because the recurring development was not new in Zambia.

JCTR, the Catholic-run organization, argued that there was no excuse for the government’s failure to plan for such calamities, which were a strain on the Zambian economy.

“The JCTR sympathizes with over 700 families affected by recent flash floods in some parts of Zambia. The damage caused is, however, a wake-up call for the nation to build capacity to deal with rain water in a safe and productive way. Flooding is not new to Zambia and the damage caused by the floods is always an economic constraint to the country. The displacement of people is a humanitarian crisis and such eventualities should be avoided. It is ironic that money is readily available to support those affected with relief, while there is no mobilization for resources into research and planning,” JCTR stated in a statement issued by communication officer Enock Ngoma.

“Government, through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) and its partners, such as the Zambia Red Cross Society (ZRCS), are in place to aid the victims in rebuilding their homes and plant new crops. However, the intervention should not end here. There is need for permanent solutions to be tabled either through relocating the people or building infrastructure that will make the management of floods efficient. JCTR feels that the nation should have found solutions when such calamities first began to occur and those affected should have also contributed in finding lasting solutions. It is good to note that President Edgar Lungu has appealed to international partners to help government address the negative effects of floods, which have left some families homeless. There is, however, no excuse for not planning for such eventualities, which unfold each year, leaving the affected in the face of severe food insecurity and displacement from homes.”

It urged government to engage stakeholders, such as the Engineering Department at the University of Zambia (UNZA), to come up with interventions to fight climate change.

“Government should engage stakeholders like the UNZA’s Engineering Department and the Zambia National Service (ZNS) to come up with interventions prior to floods like the people of Western Province, who have since time immemorial, placed systems to help them manage the flood plains productively,” JCTR stated.

“As JCTR, we feel that as long as climate change reversals are not in sight, droughts and floods will always be there. It is therefore, imperative that the government engages and adequately funds UNZA for proper research and designing of long-term mitigating systems. It is not enough that each time there is a disaster, government looks for money for immediate mitigation. The University can come up with designs that will allow for construction, not only of earth dams in flood-prone areas, but also construction of canals that will drain water away from the areas to reservoirs for harvesting so that the same can be used in times of drought.”

It also called for more lasting solutions like Lusaka’s Bombay Drainage to curb flooding in the country.

“The Lusaka Bombay Drainage is a good example of a product of engineering ingenuity from cooperating partners and good political will. JCTR is of the view that in the same vein that the Bombay Drainage was constructed, government should look to long-term solutions to floods so that they are managed in a profitable way. More of such drainages can be of help,” stated JCTR.

“Distress calls should be the exception and not the norm. In the same vein that the President called on global partners to come to the country’s aid through disaster risk strategies, he should also ask them to help Zambia put in place drainages that will not only flow water away from the people, but also facilitate harvesting it for use during the dry spells that follow rains in Zambia. In urban areas, flooding is due to poor or lack of planning of settlements. The government should take it upon itself to enforce the Town Planning Act. Providing emergency cash to vulnerable families creates inertia in these families for they know that when another flood comes, government will bring money. The government should help those that dwell in the flood-prone areas to put up structures that can withstand floods. It is good to be considerate of the vulnerable, but this should not mean making the vulnerable comfortable in their vulnerability.”