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Where life hinges on water

Where life hinges on water

Rev. Moses Chilembo, holding a hoe at the garden of Bossey Institute. © Helen Putsman/WCC

10 April 2015

Zambian pastor Rev. Moses Chilembo says that for the people of Solwezi in the northwest of his country, “Water is everything."

“Everything that we do hinges on water. Everything meaningful in life is connected to water. Water describes life in all its aspects in my area.”

Zambia is considered a country with comparatively good water resources in the region, but not everyone can access them and there are pollution issues as well as scarcity of water in some places.

The Kifubwa River flows nearby Solwezi which is close to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga province.

“We do have shortages of water in Solwezi and some people have to use shallow wells to get water,” says Chilembo.

“Throughout the country in urban areas, water supply is intermittent,” says the pastor who studied at the Justo Mwale Theological University College in the capital Lusaka.

The economy if Zambia is dependent on its mining industry and this has impacted the environment in the landlocked country.

“Pollution from the mines affects the quality of drinking water supply, provided by the Mulonga and Nkana water and sewerage companies,” observes Chilembo. “Coupled with this are growing concerns that the country’s water table is going down due to the mining activities.”

During his ecumenical studies at Bossey, which overlooks the picturesque Lake Geneva, Chilembo got the impression that water shortages are not a big issue in Switzerland.

“The Bossey experience provides a platform for enriching experiences and insights from different cultures in how to deal with environmental issues like water. In my class we have students from countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Georgia, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Togo.”

A group of 17 people, most of them theologians, but also lawyers and an engineer met at the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey, Switzerland, in a theological consultation on water justice from 8-11 December 2014 to develop a theological framework for water justice. Some of the group told Peter Kenny about the issue of water in the context of their regions, nations and local areas. So did some of the students currently studying at Bossey. The interviews will be published in the EWN website over the coming weeks.