Experiencing effects of climate change at home
AS the Conference of Parties (Cop 17) to the United Nations (UN) framework convention on climate change progresses in the South-African town of Durban, it is important to note that Zambians too can get involved in climate change programmes at an individual level.
The effects of the carbon emissions which are top on the world agenda have not spared any nation. This is with the realisation that negative effects continue to worsen daily especially on third world countries which rely on developed nations for funding to support their mitigation and adaption programmes.
Zambia has not been spared at all from all this as it is already experiencing some drastic changes in its weather patterns in form of extreme temperatures, thunder storms, floods and droughts in some instances and all these speak volumes of what negative changes have taken place to impact the climate negatively.
One does not need to look further to see some of these signs which have already manifested in our weather pattern and have since wrecked havoc in the lives of the affected people. For instance the on-set of the rain season now which was characterised by thunder storms and lightening and left a trail of destruction in a few places is not just an unusual occurrence but a sure warning sign that all is not well in the hemisphere.
A heavy storm accompanied by thunder swept through the City of Ndola last week and ripped off asbestos roofing sheets from five newly built houses in Chifubu police camp. On the main road leading into the suburb some electricity poles had fallen on the way with wires hanging loosely and traffic had to divert elsewhere to avoid the spot which covered the whole left lane near Chifubu market. Affected families in the police camp although not hurt, quickly shifted to safety to avoid further damage from being caused to their property and of course lives.
In the same camp some of the property got soaked by a heavy down pour that preceded the stormy weather as the roofs had been blown away. An affected housewife Irene Ngenda had some of her household property including carpets and pieces of furniture in the living room drenched by the rains. Mrs Ngenda who at the time of the interview was found mopping the water from her house shortly after the incident narrated that when the storm struck she was inside the house and heard a loud bang.
She later discovered that half of the roofing sheets covering part of the house had been reduced to rubble and thrown all over to the ground. She narrated her ordeal, "I was in one of the rooms in the house when I heard a loud bang that attracted my attention. By the time I got to the living room to check, I was shocked to discover that the roof was gone.”
She confessed though that despite her house having been rehabilitated recently, the roofing sheets were old and had not been replaced thus they could not withstand the pressure arising from the storm that swept through the camp on that fateful day. Due to the heavy wind some electricity poles had collapsed and in the process power had to be switched off immediately to avoid any one from being electrocuted in the ensuing ordeal.
The next day Copperbelt Permanent Secretary Christopher Mutembo who toured the police camp assured the occupants of the damaged houses that the contractor who was resident there was already on site to repair the damaged roofs without any further delay. During the same bad weather spell which blew away roofing sheets from five houses, a few metres away, a 10metre tower housing the bell at the 55-year-old Chifubu Catholic church was hit and it collapsed without injuring anyone.
The incident happened around 14.30hrs simultaneously at the time when the storm was experienced in the police camp. At the Roman Catholic Church a few members were meeting out-side the building but sought refuge in one of the chalets instead of the balcony when it started pouring as the grill doors to the church were locked.
This is what prevented them from accessing the building otherwise they would have been seriously hurt. A church member who witnessed the event, Maria Nkhata said together with her fellow church mates were almost victims on the day. They decided to remain under the chalet adjacent to the balcony instead of sitting at the balcony.
" I and my fellow members of the Nazareth group were having a meeting but when we noticed an over cast a few of us decided that we sit in the chalet while some were of the idea that we seek refuge on the balcony when the rains increased but as the debate raged on that is the time when we heard the tower collapse with the debris blocking the entrance to the church leaving all of us in a state of shock,'' Mrs Nkhata narrated.
Parish chair person James Chishimba said it is the second time that such an incident has been recorded at the church. The first one was recorded a decade ago when lightning struck the same tower causing a huge crack and a few blocks to tumble. The tower remained standing despite a few damages that were caused to it.
"But we managed to raise funds as a church to repair the damaged part,'' he said. Mr Chishimba lamented that the church building is old having been built in 1956 (just like the Matero Roman Catholic church in Lusaka), and for a long time had gone without any serious maintenance works. The only rehabilitation work that ever took place there was done a couple of years ago under the able leadership of the late prelate Fr Drevensik Miha.
"But since then the building has never received a face-lift. We can only appeal to well wishers now to come on board and assist us to repair the damaged portion,” Mr Chishimba said. It is only when calamities like this one strikes that we are reminded that climate change is real and something needs to be done to reverse its negative impact which may cause tomorrow's world to face deeper trouble than what is currently obtaining. What we need to do is to protect the environment from further damage for the benefit of future generations.
But commenting on the destruction, Citizen’s for Better Environment executive director Peter Sinkamba said this is just a snippet of some of the effects of the climate change which were anticipated to accompany the changing weather patterns. Mr Sinkamba said with these incidences of a violent nature in the near future, it was clear testimony that effects of climate change are beginning to take a toll on the environment and the problem should be addressed urgently.
Mr Sinkamba said the public has a duty to be mindful and also be made aware that they too can get involved at a personal level in reducing some of the effects which may be anticipated in future. Effects of climate change are inevitable due to an increase in carbon emissions more so in areas where deforestation has drastically been scaled up due to economic and social activities such as charcoal burning and on-going massive construction works.
Mr Sinkamba cited the growing of trees to replace the lost ones as being a vital exercise which could mitigate climate change impact at an individual level. Motorists too should avoid driving unnecessarily and ensure that their cars are not emitting so much carbon.
"Minimising on gas emissions will reduce on the adverse effects that are being caused to the hemisphere and so is the slowing down on indiscriminate cutting down of trees,'' he said. Mr Sinkamba said his organisation has for a long time been advocating that the Government should consider issues of climate change seriously.
He cited an example of the restoration of the forestry Act of 1999. Restoration of this act will foresee the creation of joint forest management boards as well as scaling up of budgetary allocation to this sector to ensure that more activities are stepped up.
"The abolition of the 1999 Act among other things resulted in the laying off of forestry rangers which has resulted into a huge deficit in terms of forestry levels in the country as their important role of curtailing indiscriminate cutting down of trees cannot be over emphasised,'' he said.
He called on the Government to revisit the current budget allocation on environmental protection which stands at 0.1 per cent. The Government would do well to consider increasing it to four per cent to make the fight against climate change meaningful.
His appeal to the construction industry is that there is need to check on the amount of timber which is cut annually as compared to that which is being replenished otherwise the huge stocks of timber being hauled out were contributing greatly to the problem of deforestation and Zambia is a main culprit. Deforestation accounts to loss of trees at 250, to 300,000 hectares.
It is Zambia's vision for 20 30 that the country becomes a prosperous middle income state where hunger is eradicated and poverty levels are reduced to minimal levels. To achieve this therefore entails the need to among others raising productivity in small- holder agriculture and promoting Zambia as an excellent tourist attraction. The need therefore for the public to participate in addressing climate change and its effects cannot be over emphasised.