Day 4 – Wednesday

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The day began with a lesson on pollution with a year 12 class. Students described the different sources of pollution in their town and discussed some of the impacts. Pupils described how the industrial pollution of the Kafue river by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) led to drinking water from their taps being seriously effected. A number told stories of skin rashes, severe diarrhoea, polluted fish amongst other impacts. They expressed their feelings powerfully and I was left with no doubt about their views.

After the lesson we visited the site of the source of pollution – KCM. Outside the heavily guarded entrance were many itinerant workers waiting to find work. Tione pointed that the new owners rely increasingly on casual workers and subcontractors which clearly has a negative social impact. These impacts are intertwined with increased poverty, poor housing and living conditions.

Water is pumped from the Kafue river into a treatment plant inside the vast copper processing factory site. The site was truly enormous and an acrid smell and taste of untold chemicals hung in the air. We toured the treatment plant and learned how the water goes through a range of process to ensure it is clean, including adding aluminium sulphide to collect particles, filtration and chlorination (although the chlorine gas was not working at present). In October this plant was polluted by a leak from KCM with dangerous chemicals including arsenic. The manager when interviewed off camera (filming was forbidden in the copper processing plant) stated that there were no impacts on the people of Chingola. Later, when on camera he stated that bad effects were only those who drank water from the river, the tap water was perfectly safe. We will be interviewing these people (from shanty compounds) on Saturday.

The manger explained that there is leakage from the water towns pipes of around 35% due to pipe breakages (I am pretty sure that is similar in Wales, but will check on return). He also pointed to the challenges of providing water for the rapidly expanding shanty compounds. Finally he explained how KCM offer much less assistance than the former owners (Anglo-American).

Whilst waiting in town with Tione we discussed the impact of HIV/AIDS. The amount of deaths are quite shocking and the impact on life expectancy is considerable. 55 years in 1990, 39 years in 2000 but now up to 42 in 2004. It is not hard to see why the life expectancy has risen recently. In school every lesson is required to start with some mention of HIV, some teachers where HIV awareness shirts, posters cover walls, murals adorn walls and giant billboards take centre stage in the town centre. People are still, however, dying in huge numbers. When we visit the HIV clinic I hope to find answers to why this is. Tione suggested increased poverty has led to greater numbers of prostitutes, but also attitudes are hard to change. It is clear that Zambians are streets ahead of our STI sensitisation programmes and we have much to learn.

Aside – went to buy a recordable CD which cost 6500 Kwacha (at least double what we would pay in the UK!).

Next we headed out to Chimfunshi chimpanzee orphanage. Along the way we passed many rural settlements. They are organised around family groups. The main building is a meeting house called ‘Insaka’. When we discuss rural-urban migration this is where it starts. Rural residents will take their produce to sell in markets like this one

Others will carry their produce into Chingola. This can entail a 100km cycle every day. We saw many cyclists returning from their epic journeys.

At the Chimp orphanage, we learned about the conservation work they do with very little investment. They take in orphan chimps from around the world. When ready the chimps are returned to the wild. The orphanage also cares for many other orphaned animals. The manager explained that the animals are usually orphaned as their mothers are illegally taken for bush meat. She also explained how commercial deforestation has destroyed animal habitats and talked of previous days when elephants lived in this area. Now elephants can only be found in small numbers in the south of Zambia.

To sum up today I felt that I was in a microcosm of the global economy. We talk of the growth of China and India as the next economic superpowers. This shifting economic geography has had massive impacts on Zambia. In the words of my hosts they feel that these foreign owned (Chinese and Indian) multinationals care very little about the impact they have on Zambia. As long as they made a profit, who cares about the economic, social and environmental impacts on the people. The pollution of the Kafue river and the impact on the people is just a symptom of a wider issue. This, however, is nothing new – ask yourself how the UK became so rich…

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