Call for referendum on Lake Malawi oil drilling activities

Lake Malawi is one of only three deep-water long-lived lakes in existence on earth; others are Lakes Tanganyika and Baikal (Siberia). Of course, Lake Malawi is the undisputed jewel of Africa comprising 18.5% of the surface freshwater supplies of the world (out of all the water on earth only 2.5–2.75% is fresh water and less than 0.01% of it as surface water in lakes, swamps and rivers). The North Americans have their Great Lakes which constitute 20% of the surface freshwater supplies of the world and swear they would not trade them for anything; much less allow any oil and gas drilling in the Great Lakes waters.

 Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi

To, therefore, leave the decision that is fated to relegates into ecological oblivion a 6.5 million-year-old wonder, this God’s providence— a national resource that has sustained the livelihoods of hundreds of generations—to one or two individuals who seem consumed by unrepressed primeval greed and heartless selfishness with affinity to the country that cannot stand any serious scrutiny is the height of ‘licentious, criminal and treasonous’ dereliction of citizenry responsibility in the truest sense of the words.

Any oil-pollution of the lake will not only impact the lakeshore populations but populations across the country and adversely affect wide-ranging economic activities whose ultimate water-source is the lakes waters—Blantyre residents will dearly appreciate the taste of oil-polluted drinking water, Lilongwe residents will surely revel in a beer or Fanta or Coca-Cola produced from oil-polluted water, the people of Goliati will opportunely consume sugar manufactured from oil-polluted water, the people of Zomba will gleefully devour beef from cows sustained on oil-polluted water, recreationists on the lake will jubilantly savor whiffs of hydrocarbons and houses with a smut of oil-polluted paste in the plaster will be a delightful respite!

Of course the decimation of all aquatic life on the lake and rivers sustained by it will serve as a great icing on the cake! (The largest petroleum spill that has ever occurred in fresh water was caused by a very seasoned Royal Dutch Shell tank ship in Magdalena, Argentina, on 15 January 1999, polluting the environment, drinkable water, plants and animals).

Let us call for a balanced and transparent referendum on the issue of exploiting oil on our lake –let us hear and heed the voices of the people we claim to represent–considering the gravity of the issue and the far-reaching consequences likely to emanate from the decision to proceed with oil and gas exploration and exploitation in our fresh-water lake that presently provides immeasurable economic sustenance for the nation.

Let the proponents of oil and gas drilling on the lake convince their consciences and the nation’s that oil-drilling on Lake Malawi will not raise the risk of oil spills, hazardous gas leaks, and pollution that will surely harm lakeside residents, the lake’s ecosystem and economic activities sustained by the lake’s waters, directly or indirectly (they can lie about the country benefiting ‘beyond recognition’ from the proceeds of oil drilling on the lake if they want to although the country knows otherwise—the Burkinabe’s are exploiting their immense gold deposits but it has not stopped them from being poorer than Malawi!).

We know the ‘Peoples House’ has been by-passed or compromised (after getting their thirty million Malawi Kwacha ‘loans’ what further interest would they have in ‘serving and protecting’ constituents’ interests?) and the technocrats irrevocably besmirched but the people whose very livelihoods will be impacted by this immense decision must be allowed to speak on this weighty matter through a balanced and transparent referendum

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13 thoughts on “Call for referendum on Lake Malawi oil drilling activities”

  1. Yotz says:

    Chisala must understand that if Malawi really discovers oil and starts drilling for export,its benefits will outweigh the risks.In this World,there are risks associated with whatever we do or with whatever countries do,but one has to forgo them in order to achieve something.

    Malawi will remain a poor country for ever if discoveries like oil are not there because oil revenues turn around economies of countries just overnight but with good leadership.Countries like Qatar,UAE or Bahrain once poor,are now respected by the outside world because they have money and something to offer to the world. Chisala should know when a country is rich nobody talks bad of it and anything coming out of it is embraced.

    The thing is oil has a strong trickle down effect in relation to other sectors of the economy.A country that has oil can attract a strong banking and financial industry,can develop its tourism industry e.g UAE,can develop and modernize its construction industry,can fund its agri-industry,can finance the acquisition of bonds in foreign banks,can fully develop its highway system,and can generally modernize its infrastructure.

    Malawi needs oil because it will be fully independent economically,and besides,it will gain respect in the world.A country that is poor never dictates its policies but others do for it.Malawi lives like it is still colonized due to its incapacity to independently finance its budget.A country fifty years after independence failing to build descent schools,hospitals,and highways on Its own is not something to be proud of .Tobacco alone has failed to transform or develop the country and it’s time to move on with alternative sources of income.

  2. Chisala says:

    No.s 1 and 3, you are the ones being unrealistic and misreading the general readership. You have misplaced confidence in the system (or conveniently do so) where the elected leadership (from the President down to the ward council) hold office to ‘serve and further their personal interest’ and not the general public’s interests or for that matter yours. They deliberately ‘drill’ holes in the ‘water bucket’ and you still believe the ‘bucket’ will still retain enough water for you to share in! If that were the case you surely would already have benefited ‘beyond recognition’ from Kayerekera uranium ore mining proceeds!

    1. johnM says:

      You raised concern with regard to the consequences of oil drilling on the lake. You were calling on a referendum on oil drilling because, in your article, you are against the drilling of oil on the basis that it will ruin the environment. You did not state your opposition of drilling on the basis of corruption. That, in my opinion, is another issue which you should put in another article. Corruption should not be an excuse to deny the people an access to the resources they are entitled to.

      As KenKK put, we might not drill the oil however the lake borders Tanzania and Mozambique. In fact Mozambique owns part of the lake and if they start drilling for oil on their side, will it not impact our side?

      As for your

    2. Kenkkk says:

      My friend JohnM has responded to you very well. Concentrate on what you wrote and not bringing In a separate topic which has already been extensively discussed by malawians and are still discussing it!!

  3. Dominic Chipwayira says:

    Oil or no oil the issue is about advancing personal gains to politicians and buddies the best example is Kayerekera very few benefits from it. Mr Chisala is just raising a concern, those oil rich countries you are refering to check their corruption statistics compare with Malawi the rate differs tremendously.

  4. Ayi,zopopa mafuta munyanja ya lake malawi kutha kupangisa kuti zinthu zachilengedwe komanso anthu okhala mu mbali mwanyanja,avutike ndikuwonongeka.

    Musayelekeze,ngati ndi umphawi basi tizafe nawo.

  5. comrade says:

    One needs to know enough of a topic at hand to meaningfully contribute to the discussion. How many freshwater oil drilling projects are we aware of? Name any two. You could not properly handle an environmentally less demanding onshore mining project (Kayerekera) and wish to lie you can handle an extremely environmentally sensitive offshore mining project! It is easier to say what you are saying when your present livelihood does not depend on the lake!

  6. Fathara says:

    Malawi- Malawi- amalawi ndalama zamayiko akunja zikasowa mulongolole, ndalama ikamachepa mphavu mulongolole. Peter kukuwuzani kuti tiyeni tizipeleka misokho, mukuti ayi ukuwazuza anthu. Apa boma likufuna kuyamba kupopa mafuta mukutiso ayi. SOPANO A MALAWI KWENIKWENI CHIMENE MUKUFUNA NDICHANI? chifukwa mukuwoneka kuti nzelu mulibe. BWANJI ZIKOLI TINGOWAWUZA A MOZAMBIQUE, A TANZANIA NDI A ZAMBIA ALIGAWANE? CHIFUKWA IFE TALEPHELA. munthu kulolela kumavutika chifukwa cha chambo? Komanso chambocho sumachikwanisa kugula.

  7. MVUNGO says:

    Komabe referendum ikhalepo chifukwa ine ine ndikuona kuti MLENGI wathu anakumba kale kuti pamene paja pakhale madzi. Ndiye ngati ena kapena boma likufuna mafuta ndiye pezani panu mukafukule. Madzi amene aja alimu Lake Malawi amathandiza anthu ambiri M,Malawi muno koma mafutawo adzapindulira anthu kapena madera ochepa.Chonde kufukulafula zinthu zimene MLENGI anakwilira kumayambitsa maphokoso tisakonde ndalama zokha.

  8. Mjumacharo says:

    Mkulu uyu sakufunira Malawi zabwino ayi. Panopa tikuvutika chifukwa choti our industrial and productive base is almost non-existent. Maiko amene ali ndi energy resources, Gas and Petroleum akluchita bwino kwambiri. Go to hell ndi zolemba zako .

  9. johnM says:

    Mr. Chisala is being unrealistic. He is calling for a referendum on something that has not been proven. There is, as far as I am concerned, no report that has been released which states that there is oil under the lake. All that is going on are exploration activities. It is only after exploration, when it has been proven that oil is indeed lying under the lake, should we decide if it is worth while exploring all not. At the moment, it is premature.

    However, if there is oil, I am in favour of exploitation of the resource. There are several reasons I am in favour.

    Firstly, oil will enable this country to support itself if it is managed properly. Currently, the country is unable to support itself and has to beg to various stakeholders to support its continued existence. I and I believe several self respecting Malawians do not like the status quo in which our heads of states go with cap in hand begging for some funds from various diplomats so as to enable us support the welfare of our people. Mr. Chisala is for the status quo to continue and he is using the environment as an excuse to support the continued suffering of the Malawian people.

    Secondly, the Oil will enable Malawians have another alternative source of energy. Currently Malawians mostly rely on forest products for energy. These are running out and if oil and especially gas is discovered, Malawians will have better source of energy which will enable us conserve some of the forests that are fast depleting and further improve the quality of life for individual Malawians. Gas can be used for cooking and heating of water and for generating electricity.

    Thirdly, oil will enable us reduce the import bill which is twice that of our exports. It will reduce the trade deficit Malawi has with other nations and will enable us have stronger currency which will assist in elevating the standard of living. Currently our exports cannot meet the demand of imports and as a result, the currency is sliding.

    Now, people like Chisala have us believe that the lake will be destroyed if oil drilling is allowed. This is far from the truth. Mr. Chisala uses the news reports which he gets from the various international media that highlight the various pollutions that the oil industry is responsible for in various areas as evidence of the impact of oil exploitation on the environment. What these reports do not highlight, are the many areas where oil is being exploited at little or no damage to the environment. The media is sensationalist and it will report on disasters because that is what sales.

    I am surprised that Chisala is concerned about the consequences of an activity that has yet to take place when there are activities that are far more threatening to the existence of the lake which are taking place right now. The uncontrolled and unsustainable cultivation of lands for maize leading to siltation of rivers, the wanton cutting down of trees leading to destruction of the water catchment areas, the overfishing that has taken place leading to the depletion of fish in the lake pose as much, if not more danger to the existence of the lake and its resources yet Mr. Chisala has not called for referendum on fishing or on agriculture. As a concerned environmentalist, what has he done to halt the excessive deforestation taking place in the country.

    I suggest that Mr. Chisala concentrates on the current challenges threatening the lake and not on the activities that have yet to materialize.

  10. KADONOSH& BWAKA says:

    nde mwalemba mochedwatu nkhani yanuyi.kukaronga kuno sunday pa 2 nov 2014 aftanun hrs kudabwera azungu ndi anthu akuda adakaodira kwa themba T/A WASAMBO,MWIRANG’OMBE,KYUNGU kuwadziwitsa kti akudzayamba kugwira ntchto yamafuta munyanjayi.ndiye kaya.adabwera pa galimoto ya grey double cabn kaya muti ma HILUX

  11. Kenkkk says:

    Your analysis is misleading, scaremongering and counter productive. There is no need for referendum whatsoever. Oil is drilled both on land and water, yes there are risks of accidents and pollution just as in any other operations such as mining, etc. There are many countries who drill oil from the sea or lakes without any problems, so why can’t we do the same? The same risks and problems you mention are also there.

    Malawi has to diversify its income sources, forex and increase its foreign reserves that can spur rapid development in the country. Relying only on tobacco, tobacco or other crops year after year is exactly what is holding our economy backwards coupled by mismanagement of our resources. Rainfall is sometimes unpredictable.

    Mining and oil will greatly improve our economy and diversify our sources of income and increAse our gdp. Environmental concerns will all be considered In such operations anyway but there is no such thing as 100% protection.

    If countries had stuck with your views, then no oil drilling or similar operations would have happened anywhere in this world, no advancement or development would take place, you have to take risks and leArn how to Manage that risk.

    Furthermore what happens if TZ starts oil drilling in lake Malawi as well? They will be reaping the oil benefits while we watch? For the time-being just forget about the boundary dispute by assuming we have agreed to share the lake.

    The risks of pollution are there but can be contained just as they are contained world over.

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