Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, has about 43 unplanned settlements which host 70% of the city’s population. Most of these settlements have experienced untold forms of suffering due to regular flooding nearly every rainy season. The flooding is attributed to poor drainage once rainfall received exceeds 800mm in a season (Nchito, 2007). One such place is the Kanyama compound which has experienced flooding after heavy rains. Kanyama floods, date as far back as 1977/1978 when they left eleven people dead and thousands homeless (Baptist press, 1978; Mulwanda, 1992; Zimba, 2009). The disastrous effect of this flood led to the creation of Kanyama Flood Disaster Fund (KFDF) (Chisola, 2012) but the negative health and environmental impact of recurrent flooding continues until this very day. On account of the resultant suffering, the residents of Kanyama have demonstrated a voting pattern which is informed by their negative experiences. Opposition politics often favoured the local politicians in contrast to the central government In every election, the residents have tended to vote for politicians who, in their judgement, would be the most likely to deliver on the drainage problem. The effect of this has been two-fold. Firstly, a new Member of Parliament (MP) is elected nearly every election and secondly, it defines the area as an opposition strong-hold for the larger part of its political history. Due to the latter reason, past ruling parties have had no incentive to resolve the problem as doing so would give credit to the opposition. At the same time, the opposition have had no means to make any meaningful change to the situation for lack of access to resources in this capacity. The outcome has been slow development and sometimes none. As a consequence, Kanyama’s flooding problem, its effects on the livelihoods of the residents and poor waste management has remained unresolved, and it also seems that the population has not resisted against this stalemate. The focus of this paper therefore is to explore the possible reasons why the residents of Kanyama have persistently used a method that, in the past, has failed to yield them the desired results; why they have not been able to force elected politicians to resolve their problems; and why they did not organize themselves in a manner that can force changes through community or concerted action? Relevance to Development Studies Sustainable environments are important for the health of the citizenry and essential for their development. Disregarding the environments in which the majority of the people in a country reside is counterproductive to development of any kind, as residents in unplanned informal settlements are a key part of the urban economy and contribute to the city’s economic growth. As the relevant authorities in developing countries are faced with a problem of providing decent housing for their people, the affected people are finding their solution in these unplanned settlements where they can build their houses according their meagre means of subsistence. A thorough understanding of the livelihoods and crucial bottlenecks in these unplanned settlements is important for the relevant authorities as they need to re-think their strategies of urban development. The study is therefore a contribution to development studies, but also may help the relevant authorities to realize better circumstances in these marginal urban environments, which will in the end, contribute to economic growth and development of Zambia.

Additional Metadata
Keywords political ecology, slum development, floods, collective action, social capital
Thesis Advisor Spoor, Max
Persistent URL
Series Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD)
Habasonda, B.G. (2012, December 14). Political Ecology of Slum Development : The case of Kanyama : Zambia. Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD). Retrieved from