Bright prospects for Zambia’s urban on-site sanitation services

African dusk

The National Water and Sanitation Council (NWASCO), the Zambian regulator for Water and Sanitation, launched for the first time the Urban On-site Sanitation and Faecal Sludge Management Framework for Provision and Regulation in Zambia last 28 June 2018. Designed to improve the regulation of urban on-site sanitation services (OSS), the framework is set to benefit the more than 70% urban dwellers in the country with no access to a sewerage system.[1]

Why the OSS regulatory framework?

Parts of on-site sanitation – environmental protection, licensing exhauster trucks, and the construction and operation of wastewater treatment plants – have been regulated by the Zambia Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA), whilst NWASCO concentrated on off-site sanitation services and systems. However, an OSS regulatory framework was lacking. In part, its absence resulted in poorly built sanitation facilities, unsafe emptying practices, illegal dumping, non-availability of faecal sludge treatment facilities, and uncontrolled pricing.

Sanitation is everyone’s business!

Core to the success of the current framework is stakeholder cooperation and synergistic operations. Though the new framework provides an overview of existing regulations, it proceeds to place a challenge on various stakeholders such as ZEMA, ZABS, JICA, UNICEF, AfDB, World Bank, MCA, WSUP, Local Authorities, Commercial Utilities, SNV and Plan, to help address some gaps.

Piloting the OSS regulatory framework for scale up

Initially it was proposed for OSS regulatory framework implementation to start at the capital city, Lusaka – the rationale being that the city is already site to planned investments under the Lusaka Sanitation Project,[3] which will then be scaled up.

This approach is however without its challenges: it runs the risk of leaving all other cities and towns behind in terms of attaining the Zambia Vision 2030 and the SDGs. Secondly, lessons from experiences in Lusaka do not necessarily apply on, or reflect the rest of Zambia’s cities and towns due to specific institutional and cultural contexts. Lusaka is a huge metropolis with large shanty and peri-urban communities, and is prone to groundwater contamination. There exist, already, a reasonable number of private sector players offering emptying and transportation services for faecal sludge, unlike in other towns.

Complementing the Lusaka initiative

Other urban sanitation programmes have emerged outside of Lusaka. SNV, for example, is implementing its Urban Sanitation and Hygiene for Health and Development (USHHD) programme [3] in partnership with the Chambeshi and Lukanga Water and Sewerage Companies, and the local authorities of Kabwe, Kasama, Mbala, Mpulungu and Nakonde.

SNV's USHHD five-component approach to urban sanitation

SNV's USHHD five-component approach to urban sanitation

Through its various components (shown above), and with a focus on the WASH Governance component, the emergence of the national framework provides the opportunity to create the momentum needed to realise the safe management of faecal matter generated on-site. The partnership’s support will focus on the following:

  • Contributing to the development of relevant by-laws in the project towns, addressing all aspects of the sanitation chain.

  • Strengthening general public sensitisation efforts on urban OSS standards, procedures and penalties.

  • Creating robust administrative procedures.

  • Developing incentives to encourage compliance.

Lessons from USHHD implementation in the five towns will provide (contextual) evidence to inform the national framework’s standards and guidelines.

Enforcement is the key challenge!

The presence of a regulatory framework is one thing, and implementation is another. The big challenge is enforcement, as evidenced by the poor track record of local authorities in implementing relevant sections of the Public Health Act that regulates some aspects of OSS through the Drainage and Latrine regulations. Therefore, to ensure that national regulations benefit all the focus of the USHHD will be two-fold.

  • To address gaps in the new OSS regulatory framework.

  • To enhance the enforcement capacity of local authorities.

[1] In a country where the sewerage system is estimated to only cover 27.4% of the country’s urban population (currently at 6.7 million), 5 million urban settlers are set to benefit from the government’s new urban OSS framework [National Urban Sanitation Strategy, 2015].
[2] Lusaka Sanitation Project: supported by the World Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the German development bank KfW, GIZ and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA).
[3] The USHHD Programme receives support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands through the WASH SDG programme.

About the Authors
Mr. Mushany Ngafise Kapusana is the Chief Executive Officer for Lukanga Water & Sewerage Company Limited in Zambia. He is an accomplished engineer with over two decades experience in the Water Supply and Sanitation sector. He has remained unwavering in his dedication to the research and implementation of improved sanitation systems in urban and peri-urban areas.

Mr. Kumbulani Ndlovu, SNV WASH Sector Leader in Zambia, is a seasoned WASH practitioner with professional experience in capacity building and managing development programmes in both rural and urban areas in several countries in Africa.

Banner photo: Kaniz Sheikh/Pexels