THE Zambia Institute of Architects (ZIA) has attributed the floods being experienced in Lusaka to the continued construction works in wetlands and water recharge zones.

In a statement, ZIA president Bwalya Masabo stated that the continued construction in wetlands was being done with total disregard of the laws of nature.

He stated new developments in these wetlands had introduced hard surfaces to the environment that prevented the proper percolation of water to the underground, resulting in a reduction in the amount of water recharging in the aquifers.

“The Zambia Institute of Architects (ZIA) notes with concern the constant flooding of our roads and communities, mainly in Lusaka, due to the failure of the drainage systems or lack of existing drainage systems. While there may be short term and long-term solutions to having this rectified, the Institute would like to draw the attention of the public and local authorities to the following critical matters in the built environment, if we are to achieve meaningful and sustainable solutions: Water Recharge Zones; the preservation of wetlands, forests and water recharge areas is critical to the sustainability of our environment. Part of the reasons we continue to experience extensive floods in Lusaka is that over the years, construction projects have been commissioned in areas that historically had been wetlands and water recharge zones,” Masabo stated.
” Additionally, new developments in these areas have been executed with total disregard of the laws of nature. Such developments have introduced hard surfaces to the environment that prevent the proper percolation of water to the underground thereby resulting in a reduction in the amount of water recharging our aquifers. It is therefore critical that these areas are preserved and further, developers and designers need to embrace green sustainable practices in construction; such as a reduction in paved surfaces, the avoidance of plastic membranes under paving stones, rain water harvesting and planting of trees, among others.”

He stated that there was need for councils and local authorities to develop digital models of towns that considered all aspects of spatial planning and development.

“Councils need to develop long term Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) that inform regional plans in order to guide the spatial framework and development of the cities and towns. These IDPs should provide sufficient guide on the urban development, zoning, road network expansion and provision of basic services such as water, sewer and electricity. The development of these plans should incorporate stakeholder consultation, as adherence will be key and will need to be followed strictly without compromise,” Masabo stated.
“Additionally, it is imperative that councils and local planning authorities move with the digital times and develop digital models of towns and cities that consider all aspects of spatial planning and development and are able to simulate effects or disruptions of any proposed developments on the road network, economy, environment and general development of the city as a whole.”

He added that there was need for councils and provincial planning authorities to strictly stop the issuance of planning permission of new plots that did not have a tangible plans.

“This will protect the unsuspecting public from purchasing properties that cannot be serviced and ultimately protect our environment and ground water aquifers that are currently being depleted, polluted and subjected to uncontrolled multiple contamination points. The Public should note that there are minimum distances that should be observed between a soakaway and a borehole, and as such, certain plot sizes cannot accommodate the two without leading to water contamination,” Masabo stated.
“Further, the method of construction of a septic tank and soakaway is critical to ensuring sewer waste is adequately neutralized before being discharged into the environment. Flooding mostly affects unplanned squatter settlements. It is imperative that local authorities and the government should consider plans to upgrade squatter settlements that meet the criteria. This should no longer be political rhetoric but an actual drive to uplift the lives and living standards of our people.”

He stated that although it was important to expand the current drainage system, proper maintenance for the current systems was vital.

“…It goes without saying that there is an immediate need to resolve the current flash floods challenge. While we commend recent efforts by the government and various stakeholders to expand the current drainage system, it is important that we have a proper maintenance regime for the existing system. The Public needs to be actively involved in the prevention of the dumping of waste in the drainage system. The councils will need to ensure that systems set up to clean drains and collect waste operate flawlessly to avoid the waste clogging the drainage system,” Masabo stated.

He further bemoaned the lack of adequate signage on road construction projects.

“The Institute notes with dismay the lack of adequate safety signage to prevent fatal accidents from contractors engaged in roadworks. This especially applies to the works being carried out by AFCONS Infrastructure Limited under the Lusaka City Decongestion Project. We therefore call out to the relevant government wings engaged in supervising these works to ensure that public health and safety measures are adhered to prevent accidents from occurring. Further, in our call for a sustainable green environment, we wish to emphasize that it is important that contractors on construction projects restore the disturbed natural landscapes and replace where practicable the indigenous trees uprooted during these developmental works,” stated Masabo.
”In conclusion, the Zambia Institute of Architects stands ready to offer guidance and professional resources to the above listed causes, as we deem these as crucial to the sustainability and resilience of the built environment. As one of the leading players in the construction industry, the Zambia Institute of Architects will be calling for a conference, ‘indaba’ of all the built environment stakeholders in 2021, to set a discourse on these and other matters that affect our generation and the future generations.”