Climate Change Manifested in Load Shedding and Rural Losses in Zambia

August 13, 2015

There are many speculations surrounding load shedding in Zambia. Some people associate it to leadership failure while others feel it is a natural occurrence that will pass.  This write up, however, gives a reflection on load shedding from a young, African, Catholic’s perspective in relation to climate change.

The majority of Zambians depend on hydroelectric power for their various activities to sustain their lives.  Hydroelectricity is the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. Kariba dam is the major hydroelectric power station that supplies electricity in Zambia.

Currently, Zambia experiences untimely blackouts on a continual basis. This has been attributed to the falling water levels at Kariba Power House Station due to inadequate rainfall along the Zambezi basin in the 2014 rainy season.  Water, one of the major components of the climate system, has been becoming increasingly scare.

A view of the Kariba Dam (du Plessis, 2002).

This is evident that humans have overtime stretched Mother Earth’s resource base. As a result, the human species, as is the case with any other species in the ecosystem, has become very vulnerable to climatic effects and water stress.

Load shedding is one of the many negative effects attributable to poor rains and hence the significant drop in water levels at the main reservoirs for electricity generation.

While addressing parliament on 2nd July, 2015, Mr Yaluma, the Zambian Minister for Mines, Energy and Water Development stated, “Assuming that during the next rainy season the rainfall pattern will be favourable, we should return to normal water supply.” This may appear to indicate that the restoration of our water reservoirs and favorable climate conditions are beyond human control. However, if we act correctly and promote alternative renewable technologies, we will be on the right track to slowly begin to restore our weather patterns to the normal rhythm.

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis expressed the already well-known fact that “climate change is a global problem with grave implications and its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades” (Pope Francis, 2015, para 25). Furthermore, Pope Francis pointed out that “water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences in the short and long term” (Pope Francis, 2015, para 28). Climate change is elevating water stress levels in Zambia, and Zambians are experiencing the impact of climate change through the drastic drop in water levels, giving rise to continuous load shedding.

Bottom line, load shedding is not making the life of many Zambians difficult. Instead, climate change is making our lives harder. In particular, the farmers in rural areas are experiencing reduced productivity and this confirms what religious leaders and climate science experts are saying in relation to the vulnerable poor being the most affected because they lack the capacity to adapt to climate change easily. As a short term measure to curb the underproduction of electricity at Kariba Dam, the government is planning to import between 150 and 200 megawatts of electricity to compensate for the intolerable power deficit.

Many are asking for how long Zambians will continue experiencing load shedding. However, the overarching question we should be asking ourselves is: “How long has it taken us to realise the damage we have inflicted on our common home?”

Angelita2 By Agness Shikabi, Country Director, CYNESA Zambia

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