Drinking from the sewer

Not so long ago, I stopped by some roadside informal market a few hundred metres into the stretch from Area 18 Roundabout towards the new stadium in the capital city.

The illegal and unceremonious marketplace is growing and manages to host fish mongers, terrazzo merchants, fruit vendors and traders of carpentry and poultry products.

How such business survives on a road not so remote to city patrol vehicles is a puzzle I welcome you to join and help solve.

As I negotiated prices with a vendor, a middle aged lady passed by the direction of the nearby houses in Area 18, hurriedly cat walking her tall and slender statue towards the banks of a river that runs in the boundary of Area 18 and Area 47.

In her right hand was a big plastic bag under whose weight she heaved and sweated.

As she disappeared into the drying grove in the gardens parallel to the river, a couple of dogs which I am hundred percent sure are stray, followed happily, wagging their tails in a show of contentment and expectation.

‘Koma azimayi ena umve,’ said one of the vendors; ‘ana awo abibauko ndiye kotaya zawozo kukhale ku mtsinje?’

It was a statement that oozed familiarity of the woman’s routine. An emotive discussion had since begun among the vendors and the customers.

‘Osati matewera okhatu,’ said another vendor, ‘Ngakhalensotu zaukhondo komanso ulemu wa wachizimayi amataya konko— agaluwo amakazitola n’kumabweranazo ku msewu kuno!’

One more vendor added:

‘Akongolerenji! Ndikhalidwe lawo anthu amenewa;  m’madera monsemu — Kawale, 47, 49, 36 mitsinje yasanduka kotaya nyansi, chonsecho ife timamwa madzi omwewo kumunsi uko kwa Chimoka.’

On that day, I went home considering how one would indeed dump sanitary pads and diapers into watercourses on which many lives downstream depend for household chores.

So, inside the week, when I heard about the misfortune that befell residents of Area 18 in Lilongwe where sewage sipped into a burst water supply pipe, I took the matter with a rainbow of spectacles.

One, I felt so sorry for households that woke up to this hell of an unimaginable proportion. Imagine walking to your sink and turning the tap on, and all you see is ‘that stuff,’ liberally somer saulting in your tumbler!

Two, I thought about all those dwellers in Mgona, Chimoka, Mtandire and other places of such accord who have, for so long, depended on streams whose upper course the uptown populaces have turned into toilets and rubbish skips for diapers and sanitary pads.

With due respect and caution, Area 18 had a taste of what so many of our brothers and sisters in the ghettos downstream go with everyday! Luckily, residents of Area 18 [enjoying the benefits of a sanctioned settlement!] had the Mayor lead the shouts for help and the problem was promptly fixed.

Area 18 will soon turn back to clean taps. But what about Chimoka, Senti and other areas which, to this minute and second, feed and drink from the polluted streams?

We need to think and do more. We need to take clean water to all our brothers and sisters currently drinking from unprotected sources. They are human too, just like the residents of Area 18!

To all that sympathised with Area 18 residents; what about those poor Senti voters still drinking from the sewer? n

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