The situation at Kariba is desperate.
Water levels have gone to an all time low and it is likely that severe load shedding will be implemented to conserve and ensure that the remaining water takes us to the rain season.
This is a serious matter which deserves national concern and attention. It should not be trivialized to political polemics as suggested by one so-called expert Edith Nawakwi who seems to have answers for all of Zambia’s problems.
If anything Zesco authorities must now consider prioritizing supply to conserve jobs and industry by concentrating the minimum supply we receive towards the mines, industry and essential services including hospitals. Domestic use must be subordinated to the greater cause of sustaining the economy.
Undoubtedly, domestic users are the most vocal and politically volatile. The inconvenience created to households through gadgets including geysers, forcing families to operate under candlelight, use cold water and perhaps cook using charcoal rather than electricity, is understandably frustrating and annoying, but the alternative of shutting down industry is even worse because the entire economy will be affected.
These privations are sacrifices the country must make in times such as these when greater national concerns are in play.
We should be comforted or perhaps seek solace in the fact that our neighbours in Zimbabwe have had to take serious measures including cutting power generated from Kariba by a third to 475 megawatts due to low water levels.
Zimbabwe produces half of its electricity from Kariba and the rest from other sources.
The two countries have been forced to reduce abstraction of water because of the danger that the dam would be shut down completely before the rainy season in November. This would be a total disaster for the two countries.
For the pundits and critics, it must be made clear that the deficit in rain this year has not only affected Zambia and Zimbabwe but has also caused severe problems in South Africa which until now has been the major supplier of grain to the rest of the continent.
It has been estimated that South African will need to import more than 700,000 metric tonnes of yellow maize worth more than $100 million form such countries as Argentina and Ukraine to meet the deficit.
This is because the rain deficit has damaged crops in Orange Free State and North West which ordinarily would contribute more than 60 percent of the total harvest.
Inevitably the prices have increased, white maize by nearly 30 percent and yellow maize by about 13 percent.
According to South African experts this year’s harvest is perhaps the lowest since 2007 and there is a fear that the next growing season may also be affected by a deficit of moisture in the soil.
Instead of playing politics with the current climatic environment, Zambians should unite to work together and follow the guidelines provided by Zesco which has observed abnormal and often panicked uses of power whenever power is restored.
Consumers tend to use inordinate amounts of power to make up for the deficits thereby nullifying the purpose for load shedding which is intended to economize and reduce usage.
While it is understandable that Zesco will lose revenue from load shedding it is imperative that a sustained campaign is launched to sensitise and make the people aware of the need for conservation and judicious use of the limited power generated.
At the same time industry has been encouraged to explore alternative sources of energy including the use of generators, solar power and where possible wind generation.
We must work together and manage the crisis, until the rain season, but even then it is possible that the next rain season may not quite provide the amount and quantity of water required to refill our empty reservoirs.
Therefore a long term approach is inevitable.