By NKOLE NKOLE
FOR many residents of Lusaka city, answering the call of nature would seem like a bit of a task when faced with a stressed bladder in Lusaka’s central business district.
Not only is this due to the poor state of public health facilities such as ablution blocks, but more so the lack of choice when it comes to accessing these facilities.
This has created a problem for many of the city’s commuters and traders, in general, who have had to find alternative means of relieving themselves. Some of these means have had an adverse effect on the immediate environment and contributed to low standards of hygiene.
In light of this, the Lusaka City Council (LCC) was recently given money by the Zambian government to aid in the construction of ablution blocks in strategic points of the city’s central business district.
As LCC public relations manager Chanda Makanta admitted, the exercise is long overdue and had been hampered in the past by the council’s lack of resources.
Lusaka’s central business district has for a long time lacked public toilets while its population has steadily grown over the last few years to over two million. The population rise has come with its own demands and challenges.
Thankfully, Lusaka residents should have a wider range of options when it comes to answering the call of nature after generous consideration with regards to the construction of public toilets by Government.
Five designated areas of the central business district have been identified for the construction of ablution blocks, confirmed Mrs Makanta.
The sites include one on Ben Bella Road as well as one just behind Findeco House. Another site has been identified in Kamwala area.
The toilets, she admits, are long overdue and are needed due to the current shortage which has encouraged people to find relief in many undignified places.
Some would cringe at the thought of using public toilets as not everyone has had an experience worth retelling after using them. Yet, Lusaka being a busy, bustling city cannot exist without public toilets.
To date, Lusaka central business district has survived on one public toilet located on Katondo Road, which has left people to convert tree trunks, hallways and passages around town into unplanned toilets.
LCC is thus mandated to construct and manage public toilets with the view of contributing to the overall sanitation of the city.
“We would like to appeal to members of the public to take care of these toilets jealously once they are constructed as they are really meant for the public even though managed by the council,” Mrs Makanta explained.
Ordinarily, local authorities should be able to maintain the toilets on a daily basis and where they fail, those toilets are then put to tender for a private company to manage them.
But the ablution blocks are not just restricted to traders. Known for their hustle, street vendors too, play a major part in the city’s make-up and have contributed by a large extent, to the increase in population in the Lusaka business district.
For instance, the leeway given to street vendors by the Government last year has affected the face of the city and worsened already existing sanitation challenges in relation to public toilets.
LCC markets co-ordinator Reuben Matibula said the objective of the public toilets construction was to ensure that already existing facilities as well as general sanitary conditions at the markets were improved.
At public markets such as Lusaka’s City Market, there are presently four ablution blocks. The LCC administers 27 markets, which are managed directly by the council but has 60 that are managed by co-operatives. Most small markets around Lusaka have at least one toilet facility.
Mr Matibula acknowledged that much of the city’s markets had enough ablution blocks but as the population within those markets was growing, it gave rise to the serious need for the construction of more washrooms.
“Originally, the ablution blocks at markets were meant for traders only and the design of the toilet was made with the traders in mind. However, aside from the traders, there are also vendors who have come to do business from inside the markets and were not planned for by the council,” Mr Matibula said.
He explained that moving the vendors to designated places and providing them with facilities of their own could be a possible way to better handle the problem involving the shortage of ablution blocks.
Apart from the markets there are also bus stations such as City Market, Lumumba and Kulima Tower with a toilet each.
The council has one ablution block at Kulima Tower bus station, which Mr Matibula described as inadequate for the number of operators now at the station.
“We have renovated that one but there are still plans for expansion,” he said.
At Northmead market, there is an old ablution block that is presently being rebuilt by the council, while the one built at Buseko market was built in a waterlogged area.
However, for traders at Buseko market in Matero, a new toilet is being constructed by the LCC after recommendations were made by members of the community on where to place the new conveniences.
Human waste must be disposed of in a clean, safe and dignified manner and sanitation facilities in particular have to be culturally acceptable. They further need to be constructed in such a way that ensures privacy.
For a long time, many people had stressed the need for public toilets and the improvement of public health facilities in general.
The ongoing construction of public ablution blocks, it is hoped, will contribute to a saner and cleaner city that dwellers can be proud of.
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