Determinants of water insecurity in informal settlements of Lusaka: the case of George settlement.

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Ndhlovu, Dorothy
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The University of Zambia
Water insecurity is increasingly becoming a global problem, and African cities are at the coalface of this challenge. The water insecurity challenges in African cities are due in part to an interweave of factors such as rapid and often unplanned urbanisation, poor quality of infrastructure and high levels of urban informality. These limitations make informal settlements in African cities most susceptible to high risks of water insecurity. In Zambia, seventy-two percent of households have access to clean drinking water while seventy-two percent of Lusaka population lives in informal settlements with very poor access to reliable water services. Lusaka has previously recorded fluctuation and reductions in rainfall patterns and this has had a direct bearing on water insecurity in the city and its region. Despite efforts by governments and various stakeholders to deal with rampant water insecurity problems in African cities, including Lusaka, urban water challenges persist. The issue of water insecurity remains unclearly characterized, and interventions are primarily reactive rather than proactive, making failure of interventions eminent. By focusing on George settlement in Lusaka, this study aims to examine determinants of water insecurity and urban resilience in the water sector in informal settlements of Lusaka. Data for this study were collected using semi-structured interviews, observations, grey literature and media sources. Thirty-five community residents and nine key informants from various institutions in the water sector in Lusaka were selected purposively to participate in the study. The data were analysed qualitatively to enable the study drill-down to lived realities through narratives and themes. The findings show that the key drivers of water insecurity in George settlement are centred on water scarcity and long distances to safe water sources (communal water sources), underground water contamination as evidenced by ‘deep community stories of dirty’ water. In addition to rampant vandalism of scanty water infrastructure and rinsing demand for water in the community, George settlement faces a spiral of interweaved challenges such as physical insecurity, high poverty levels and near complete failure of urban planning. These complex issues interact intensely to shape livelihoods and water use behaviours in a clearly visible water insecure settlement. To survive in such a waterscape, residents deploy a diverse set of strategies that include ensuring multiple water sources for different uses, deployment of extreme water rationing measures and use of innovative and climate-sensitive options such as rainwater harvesting. The study further establishes while George has been upgraded many times, settlement upgrading approaches in the area have not addressed water challenges in the area and that city planning has not deployed an integrated approach. Settlement upgrading efforts and city planning measures have not contributed to resilience building in the water sector in George settlement. Based on the findings, the study recommends effective implementation of the Lusaka Slum Upgrading and Prevention Strategy, increased investments in water infrastructure and establishment of devolved water management systems and processes.
Environmental management. , Water policy--Water governance--Water management. , Water management. , Water resources management. , Human geography.