It in appreciated by everyone with full knowledge of, and love for, Malawi that the project involving tapping water from Lake Malawi to Lilongwe is extremely important and remarkable response to needs.
According to recent NSO statistical projections, Malawi, which currently has a human population of not less than 16 million, is expected to reach 30 million people by the year 2030. That is barely 12 years from now.Lilongwe is fast expanding so is the statistics of consumers of such services like water and electricity.
At a national population of about 16 million people, Lilongwe has about 3 million people. The likelihood that the City’s population will double when Malawi reaches the projected 30 million is logically firm and less questionable. That will entail doubling in the demand for such resources and utilities like water.
Conversely, the supply capacity is under threat of mismatching the demand on account that apart from the available system being aged, Kamuzu dam, where the water is tapped, is under its own threat of sustainability as it has lately become a sad habit for Lilongwe river to be drying up in a period of over half the year length. With these pertinent dynamics, the project is of paramount due importance in mitigating the imminent crisis.
It becomes sad, therefore, that such a project that seeks to strategically respond to such possible crisis is facing unreasonable resistance. Firstly, the project was accused of not following proper tendering process. When this allegation was argued to its dismissal, those determined to frustrate the project have come up with yet another issue of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
One of the disciples tasked to frustrate this water project is one Kenneth Wiyo, an associate professor at Bunda College of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar). After failing to justify the allegations that the project didn’t follow proper tendering procedure, he now says there is no “hydrographic study and EIA” in place to support the commencement of the project. In his remarks, he raises the questions of power supply needed to pump water from the lake to the inlands of Lilongwe.
Let it be reminded, or indeed be known by the very public purported to be misguided, that an EIA is only used as a decision aiding tool rather than decision making tool. Neither does it mean that for a project to go ahead it has to be free from negative environmental impacts. It all lies within the competence of the selected formidable contractor to necessarily mitigate crucial estimated negative impacts.
Looking at complex water projects that Khato Civil has carried out in South Africa and other countries across Southern Africa, I declare with authority that I do not think Malawi can have special complex impacts that it can fail to manage or any special standards that Khato Civils cannot meet.
Khato Civils and South Zambezi make such a giant force with remarkable competence in construction and engineering projects. Complex projects in countries with highest standards than Malawi have been performed and delivered by this force. It sends me into laughter, therefore, to listen to “Engineers” who have never designed a footpath before, babbling some theoretical arguments.
That having been said, I do not want to join the assumption that there is no Hydrographic Study or EIA in place. The pending professor may end up swallowing shame once more.
Then turning to the Malawi Law Society (MLS) calls, my surprise continues. The MLS has, in a letter dated March 21 2017, asked the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to furnish it with a report of the EIA conducted for the project. The Society has cited Section 24 of Environmental Management Act to emphasize the need for the EIA while, with an ultimatum of 7 working days, demanding a copy of the same. It is this demand and ultimatum by the MLS that I find irritating and grating.
While Section 25(3) of the Act calls for the EIA report to be open for public inspection, the MLS is not specified as the guarantor of public confidence to the report. I, therefore, think that the MLS is acting ultra vires. Acting beyond its power and mandate.
There is a proper institutional and administrative structure for EIA in Malawi and the ultimate technical authority is the Environmental Affairs Department in the relevant Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs. It is this department which is responsible for the administration, implementation and monitoring of EIA and not the Malawi Law Society.
Finally, I wish to say that this project is so responsive to the needs of the people and the DPP government will undeniably take credit for delivering to the people. I am assuming that it is from this political fact that some politicians are using people like this horrible associate professor to try to shoot this project down. But there is danger: Once the contractor gets fed up with this political nonsense, he can simply pull out and demand compensation for what has been spent in mobilizing for the commencement since a lot has already been done.
Malawians will remain the bottom losers and once we discover that you were the spanners who disturbed the wheels of this useful project, we will not like you at all.