The Kaleya river situated about 10 kilometers South of Mazabuka town, with its genesis in Chikanka District meanders from upper Kaleya before giving birth to a squatter town ‘Kaleya Station.’ Surrounded by small and large commercial farms, the river has been a reliable source of water for the people of Chief Mwanachingwala and their livestock, downstream for many years.
With perennial characteristics, it discharges its content into the Kafue River, one of the most important rivers in Zambia economically.
When it rains plentifully, the river causes flooding to surrounding areas at the confluence of the Kafue river known as Kabanje, making it one of the most fertile places as the water sink with all the debris.
Kabanje village, sharing a lean boundary with Zambia sugar cane fields is practically an all year round agriculture area, thanks to Kaleya river. This is the village where you find all manner of vegetables and fresh maize all year round, supplying consistently to Mazabuka town.
Biodiversity has for many years been admirable in the Kaleya river until recently when man’s gluttonous behavior reversed the structure. Crabs, fish of all types especially cat fish, sardine fish, frogs of all types were patrons of the tranquil water in the Kaleya River. This has now stopped thanks to man who has changed water quality and quantity.
Dammed many times from its pinnacle in Chikankata accompanied by massive deforestation, the Kaleya stream has suffered a lot of structural damage due to commercial and subsistence activities, although it has resiliently continued to discharge its contents, owing to its hydraulic strength, according to experts.
Despite 2019 being the driest year in the recent history, the Kaleya stream, small as it may be, retained some water quantities, mainly from its underground recharge systems.
River bank cultivation, indiscriminate cutting of trees along the stream, brick molding and sand mining in few places have however, been blamed for the silting of the river, making it dry in some places.
The ecosystem in this stream of life has gradually disappeared, much to the consternation of old people who for a long time have raised eyebrows on commercial farmers who built dams across the stream, accusing them of discharging chemicals in the river channel.
“We just saw the reduction in the crabs and fish a delicacy of the people of this area,” said …Munanchinga who has lived near the river for over 50 years now.
He revealed in an interview that sometimes people would find fish, crabs and frogs floating dead in the stream without knowing the source of water poisoning.
The increasing number of people doing commercial and subsistence activities along the river are a danger to its survival, Mr. Munanchinga laments
A study report by the University of Zambia in 2001 indicates that, about 90 percent commercial farming was being done just about half a kilometer away from the Kaleya river while 60 percent was small scale farming. This therefore means that chemical effluents from fertilizers and pesticides where discharged into the river by rain water regularly.
The study further reveals that the Kaleya river farming community use a lot of chemicals for both fertilization, pest and weed control, making the water prone to contamination. Further, both commercial and small scale farmers were aware that chemical effluents being washed away from their farms were a danger to the environment.
Recently, a new strand of contamination by residents of Kaleya station township surfaced.
Mr. Munanchinga bemoans the growing recklessness where some Kachasu brewers clean their vessels right in the river, thereby contaminating the water with molasses, the major ingredient used to make the illegal beer.
He adds that the chemicals used in gardens and farms and the Kachasu residues discharged right in the river channel is killing the ecosystem and fauna.
Chemicals discharged in the water may have given rise to some invasive alien organisms threatening the rich bionetwork of the river.
There are adequate provisions with regards to water protection in this country which are being wantonly abrogated.
According to the ZEMA act No 12 of 2011, a person shall not discharge or apply any poisonous, toxic, eco-toxic, obnoxious or obstructing matter, radiation or other pollutant, or permit any person to dump or discharge such matter or pollutant into the aquatic environment in contravention of water pollution control standards established by the Agency in liaison with the relevant appropriate authority.
A novice’s look at the water in the Kaleya river reveals some brown color and when you move closer, there is an atrocious stench coming from the water. Written by Reuben Hambulo.
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