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Welcome surprises

By: Kairos Dela Cruz

Lusaka, August 13 — It is my third day now in Zambia. So far so good. I’m here to attend the national symposium on adaptation finance accountability, transparency, and governance. Since I arrived, I can’t get over several encounters with local quirks that have made this trip rather interesting and enlightening.

I was told it would be hot. As a first timer in Africa I thought I misheard our pilot when he said that the outside temperature in Johannesburg, South Africa, was 8° Celsius. I never thought it could get this cold in this part of the world. (I know, I could have googled about the weather before going here.)

One of the experiences shared during the conference was that Zambia’s climate is becoming more unstable. I’m lucky that it’s cold now because the country’s thermostat can go to extremes any time of the year. This makes things more urgent for a lot of Zambians, especially those from the provinces.

Lusaka is certainly expanding. “Flat” and “sprawling” are two words I can use to describe Zambia’s infrastructure development.

The malls, new offices, and residential plots are generally flat and airy. The design of Lusaka expands from within the main business district to the outskirts of the city. This resulted to buildings that are perfect for a good walk. Unfortunately, this land-use strategy also makes it prone to flooding. There also appears to be an ungainly relationship between old buildings and new ones.

My hotel is right in front of what I thought was a nuclear power plant (it’s geothermal) because the city just grew so rapidly that it expanded up to the old coal mines near the edges of Lusaka.

I’ve never felt so close to wildlife. Last night, I saw three impalas passing by the hotel’s garden. I half-expected a stalking lion to emerge.

I wake up to weird bird sounds. I always take my time to listen to the chirps. It’s like a podcast of NatGeo, only it’s all real.

In the symposium, one of the major questions posed was about why government and contributing countries were not putting more money to understand the relation between wildlife habitat degradation and climate change. One of the attendees pointed out that wildlife is encroaching more and more on agricultural lands because of dry spells, and lack of food in the wild, both of which are becoming more severe due to climatic impacts. And of course we can also say humans encroached first and have through economic activities reduced habitats all over.

Lusaka is a fast developing city. Like Manila, it is faced with numerous challenges related not only to resources but also to governance. But people are talking to one another and sharing insights, and free-flowing, meaningful dialogue is always a good foundation.

The national symposium I’m attending has started a new conversation that has managed to engage a broad array of stakeholders. All are interested in building a better Lusaka, a better Zambia.

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