Water crisis hits some Ntcheu Communities

A 3.72 million cubic metres Mpira dam in Ntcheu district in the central region of Malawi is gone. And a total of 500,000 people are without water.
The reason for this crisis is simply because government is not interested to helping communities to be supplied with clean water.
The construction of the dam was finalized in 1993 and soon after its construction people had no water problems. Boreholes were also drilled in the area where the dam is situation but today its just history.
Because the dam is dry due to negligence coupled with climate change communities have resorted to walking long distances in search of water.
But government is promising that something will be done to help communities get the much needed water for their lives.
With rains now falling communities hope that the levels of water in the dam will improve and government hopes that this too will improve the situation.
Ntcheu district is one of the 28 districts in the country facing serious water crisis and government has been promising communities to improve on water supply but the situation seems not changing.
Many other areas are without proper water supply and with high levels of corruption currently underway it remains to be seen whether communities, not only in Ntcheu and other districts will be supplied with clean water.


Thieves ransack water systems

In an attempt to scare communities thieves in most parts of Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital are on a mission stealing water taps which they sell to vendors at black markets for as low as US$4 each.

In a recent development thieves went on a rampage in townships of Area 49, 25 and nearby areas where a number of water connecting equipment have been stolen.

“All this is happening because of high level of unemployment,” said Andrew Galeta, a resident of the capital.

He said most of these people stealing water pipes and other accessories are selling them cheap for survival.

“These people need money for the daily survival. Selling them at cheap price means they need money they dont carry even if they are caught and beaten up,” he said.

Malawi has one of the highest unemployment rate in the region with labour statistics indicating that over 35% of the youth are unemployed.

But in an attempt to minimise such unemployment government with funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB) is implementing a youth project aimed at increasing employment rate.

But with the population of the youth growing each day, it is unlikely that thieving of water pipes and other equipment will be a thing of the past.


Malawi, Zambia cholera outbreak a sad development

By Ralph Mweninguwe
Its is sad that both Malawi and Zambia are facing a cholera outbreak. This should not have happens in the first place considering that both countries spend millions of US$ on water, sanitation and hygiene activities.
Sad still is the fact that both governments do not adequately fund the Wash sector. This outbreak comes on the background that the two countries I 2017 declared a number of villages open defecation free (ODF).
This should not have happened in the first place. Lives could have been spared and not lost to cholera outbreak. And as we enter the new year we must be ashamed of ourselves that we are losing lives that could have been saved.

Lilongwe Water Board Executive Directors should be fired

Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) has been condemned by many including NGOs for giving people in Lilongwe water containing human wastes. I think this is a serious issue and LWB executive team must be held accountable for it. But interestingly the Malawi Government led by President Peter Mutharika hasn’t even condemned it and the president is the Minister Responsible for Water issues. Ministry of Health is quite too on the matter.

The people who drunk the faeces are also quite and are busy complaining on FB and other social media. What a pathetic situation we are in. The Parliamentary Committee responsible for such issues says it wants to meet LWB Chief Executive and other senior guys but after meeting them they have no powers to fire the director. Only the president or the Board can do so. What has happened should not have happened in the first place. Water is life and drinking contaminated water is uncalled for.

I am of the view that the whole executive team be fired and answer for their actions.

Water is key to ODF success


Chief Director (c) in the Ministry of Health Chimwemwe Banda hands over ODF certificate to chief Kayembe in Kasungu district

by Raphael Mweninguwe

Villages in Malawi are now being declared open defecation free (ODF), thanks to local and international non-governmental organizations such as Participatory Development Initiative (PDI), WaterAid and Concern Universal (CU).

A decade or so ago issues of ODF were rarely discussed and because of our cultural and traditional beliefs people hardly talked about defecation freely. The chiefs themselves could not talk about ODF because it was considered a taboo.

But total the chiefs are in the forefront telling their subjects not to defecate in the open and in Traditional Authority Sitola in Machinga by-laws have been put in place that prevents people from defecating in the bush and once found the by-laws breaker pays a find to the village headman.
Traditional Authority Mwase in Kasungu set an example of other chiefs when his villages were declared ODF about two years ago and just a few days ago, Peter Kumpalume, Minister of Health declared TA Kayembe and Chikhaza in Dowa ODF at a function which CU organized. The function took place in TA Kayembe.

CU in partnership with Dowa and Kasungu District Councils is implementing the Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Project targeting 11 TA’s with funding from UKAID through UNICEF to the tune of MK 1.6 billion. The project started in July 2015 after completing a 2-year Phase 1 Project funded to the tune of MK 1.3 billion. The Phase 2 Project, according to CU, builds upon the gains of Phase 1 while giving greater emphasis to borehole water point’s sustainability, scaling up Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and hygiene promotion among target rural communities.

CU Country director Heather Campbell said the project targets 420,000 people from the 11 TAs in Dowa and Kasungu districts. She also said CU has facilitated the construction of 714 boreholes reaching out to 178,500 people.

“In Schools Concern Universal has facilitated the construction of 42 boreholes. Since we embarked on this project in 2013 there has been remarkable improvement in sanitation and hygiene provision,” she said.

TA Kayembe said she was happy with the work that CU is doing in his area and she said people no longer practice open defecation because every household is now having a toilet.

Kusamba Dzonzi, a Member of Parliament for Dowa West, said while ODF is highly appreciated there was need for people to have access to water.

“Some people in the Constituency have no access to water and it is my wish that [Central Region] Water Board should provide people with water so that WASH project can be a complete success. Without water people cannot wash their hands after visiting the toilets,” he said.

Health Minister Kumpalume urged Malawians to take WASH seriously arguing that practicing good sanitation and hygiene would help save about MK8 billion which is spent on treating preventable diseases such as cholera and diarrhea.

He said this money could be used for other things such as construction of new health centres and buying drugs.

Access to water is key to achieving ODF sustainability and not only in the rural areas but in the cities and towns as well. In Machinga TA Sitola lamented one day that his areas requires water for his subjects to have access to improved sanitation and hygiene.

Government should ensure that communities should have access to water and in situations where there is no water or water is scarce people will not priotise handwashing facilities because for them it will be a waste of water.

Assuming someone travels over five kilometres in search of water and when she gets back home getting some water for handwashing will be a hard decision to make.

So if the Minister really needs to save the K8 billion that is ‘wasted’ on saving lives because people have are suffering from preventable diseases such as cholera and diarrhea then it should start by providing people with the basic needs such as water. Politicians should not just make promises on the campaign but it should fulfill the wash promises.

Government should also increase funding to the sector which seems neglected. But Kumpalume defends government that it has no enough money to support the sector 100%. In 2013/14 financial year the WASH sector received 49.6% of the approved provision, according to the Irrigation, Water and sanitation Sector Performance Report.

Taxing water: winners and losers

by Raphael Mweninguwe
When I read an advert in the local newspapers where the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) is advising the public that Malawi Government has decided to widen its tax base by taxing us through the water we use from all Water Boards, my immediate response was that something is wrong somewhere.
Water Boards always uses a cliche ‘water is life’. What is means is that without water we cannot survive. I know government is struggling to finance its activities because it has no financial support from its development partners. I will not call them donors for obvious reasons. And we all know why we cannot get the support and it is not for this discussion.
With this announcement the Water Boards have already upped their tariffs to factor in the 16.5% tax. The Water Boards may not be affected by this tax imposition but the consumers especially those who are poor.
Most of us who use water from Water Boards stay in cities and towns and to some extent in rural areas but mainly at a trading centre, while a certain percentage of people living in the rural areas use boreholes. Most of these boreholes are not functioning in our rural areas.
I know of some people living in towns and cities relying on communal kiosks and these too will be affected by the 16.5% tax because the water that they use is piped, according to the advert.
I don’t have problems with Malawi Government widening its tax base but I have a problem when it decides to tax water. For electricity people are using Chinese torches so they cannot complain much with hydro-power after all they are not many.
It is wrong to tax water because water will be expensive and as a result not many will be able to pay. What this means is that many will resort to water from unprotected sources such as shallow wells and streams. When we still had people relying on shallow wells even in town this tax will just increase the numbers.
Already in the cities and towns our streams are contaminated by industry wastes such as the Mudi River in Blantyre and Mchezi in Lilongwe. Water Boards are still struggling to provide water to the small number of people they have in the cities and towns mainly because of poor management coupled with political interference and corruption.
If government were serious enough in providing good services to the people it would have asked the Water Boards to improve in the delivery of services and not asking them to increase tariffs. Government institutions have been badly managed and at the centre of it all is political manipulation. Government itself is not honouring its bills to Water Boards and with this tax in place I don’t know if honouring its bill payment will be a priority.
The person who came up with this idea, possibly could be the Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, is wrong in his judgement. Malawians have so many taxes imposed on them. Anything you  buy from the shop is taxed. Fuel has alot of taxes imposed on it as part of government plan to raise money.
And what is government using this money for when it cannot invest in water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) sector within the communities? We have health facilities that are without beds, drugs and doctors. We have schools that have no running water with improved sanitation and yet we have Water Boards in all the three administrative regions. We have people who cannot afford a pail of water in cities and yet their taxes go into greedy politicians’ hands.
Cashgaters in government and their associates are celebrating because they will now have more money to steal. To me these are the winners. While the common man in the streets will continue languishing in poverty and these are the losers. You cannot be celebrating when your people are failing to have access to basic needs such as water, health and education.
A reasoning government will either remove the taxes on water and improve on the services or tax people and use the very same money to improve more on the delivery of these services. A government that doesn’t reason will always tax its citizens and steal from them.
On another note I also noted that Malawi Energy Regulator Authority (MERA) has put on hold a recommendation to have Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) increase its tariffs by 8.9% because it says Escom has not performed to its satisfaction. MERA should not cheat. Has Escom ever performed well if we are to assess it since multiparty? It has always under performed and I do not even think its stuffs deserve a Christmas bonus come December!
Escom always find an excuse for its failures. Why has it not been innovative enough, 52 years of independence. It could not think of another way of generating power all these years other than hydro.


Water project puts community and government on collision course

By Raphael Mweninguwe

The news that was coming from Mulanje district last week about Minister George Chaponda being stoned has set a precedence in as far as environmental protection is concerned.

A number of lessons can be learned from this incident. But for me what comes out clearly is that government should not take people for granted. You can suppress people but at one point people will wake up from their sleep and do what they feel is good for them.

I am in agreement with the concerns raised by the people of Mulanje that Mulanje Mountain needs protection. They say the government and project owners, the Blantyre Water Board should plant trees to protect catchment areas. They also demand other benefits such as piped water to their homes.

Government and Blantyre Water Board should have done their homework well. They did not engage the people and if they did then the people were misinformed by the investor.

On the other hand we are told that communities have been misinformed by their local leaders which is not true. If it is true what collect information were they getting from authorities? Did they explain to the people the benefits they will get from the water project?

The Board is getting water from Mulanje Mountain via its pipes down to Blantyre bypassing communities. The water resource is in Mulanje and the people there drink water, some of course, from unprotected wells and yet clean water from their areas is pumped to Blantyre.

If government had told communities that water from the mountain would also be pumped to communities through kiosks I don’t think these men and women would have been angry at the Minister and his team when they went to visit the proposed intake site on the mountain.

If government or BWB was not hiding any information to the public there was no need for people to stone the minister. After all government is funding the project with a loan of USD23.5 million which the very same people will be paying through taxes. They deserve a big cut from the project.

But what I know is that government has never been open with the public it claims it is supporting. Most projects in Malawi which have government interest rarely serves the communities.
Government doesn’t even want to come in the open with clean hands.

I have in mind the Kayelekera Mine in Karonga where Paladin Africa promised the people the moon. And yet after so many years of ripping off Karonga citizens in particular and Malawi in general it is hard to see any benefits the communities have got. What they have done is to leave a polluted environment which will affect the entire ecosystem in the area.

Even government cannot come into the open and explain how much it got from Paladin and how was that money spent.
For me our politicians are so happy when its them benefiting from these projects at the expense of the people whom politicians claim they represent.

What I am seeing here is that Mulanje communities have set precedence for other communities to do the same in future. The investor is supposed to involve the people in the project designs because they are the ones on the receiving end.

Chaponda tells us that the people would have benefited from BWB project through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but this is just an intent for the investor. It is not even legally binding. No company can be sued if it fails to provide the CSR to communities.

People of Karonga cannot sue Paladin Africa for not providing all what they promised they would do for them as part of CSR because it is not legally binding. So its is just on trust that communities believe in what the investor such as BWB is promising the people.

Let government do what is good for them and it must do that business in open and transparent manner otherwise I am already seeing other communities in Malawi following the same.