Malawi govt to reconsider Salima-Lilongwe water project – Finance Minister

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe has said  government might reconsider the  $500 million Lake Malawi water project following the citizens concerns.

Gondwe: Government will reconsider the Salima-Lilongwe water project following controversiesl

Khatho Civils—South Zambezi Joint Venture of South Africa is the company  that was contracted by Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) and Malawi Government to install the water pipeline project t which entails pumping water from Lake Malawi in Salima to Lilongwe.

The company was awarded the project following a closed tender process involving over six companies and a successful business pitch at the Malawi Investment Forum (MIF).

However, critics, have cast doubts on the project implementation citing the lack of hydrographic study on the changing water levels in Lake Malawi and raised questions on power supply needed to pump the water.

Finance Minister Gondwe said the project will be reconsider restarting the process of awarding the contract .

“We may not proceed with the project because of all these [controversies] about the project, we may have to start everything all over again,” said Gondwe.

Center for Development of People, (CEDEP) has called for the cancellation of the project which is expected to pump 50 million litres of water from Lake Malawi per day to meet the city’s ever growing population.

Despite the fact that it is a requirement under the Environmental Management Act to carry out an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for a water project of this size before conducting such a project, nothing of this sort has happened, violating the Environment Management Act of Laws of Malawi.

In a statement made available to Nyasa Times,  CEDEP said for a project of such magnitude to commence, there needs to be both a pre-feasibility and full feasibility study conducted as well as a comprehensive environmental and social impact assessment followed by detailed designs that are then made public.

“All this is supposed to be done by an independent contractor to avoid issues of conflict of interest. Looks like somebody has been pressurizing Water Authorities especially Lilongwe Water Board and Central Region Water Board to proceed with this using short cuts.

“How can government be doing short cuts in projects? What is the hurry? Why should government refuse professionalism? What is behind this contract? This is mediocrity of the highest order.

“Further than this, it is worrisome to note that this project seeks to tap water from Lake Malawi in Salima to Lilongwe and belongs to Lilongwe water board but has been awarded to Khato Civils Limited and yet Lilongwe Water Board does not have sufficient information of the same,” reads part of the statement signed by CEDEP Executive Director Gift Trapence.

Trapence said government should hire an independent contractor who will do a full feasibility study and an Environmental and Social impact Assessment (ESIA) before the project commences.

“All these must be published and made available to all Malawians. Malawians deserve to know better any projects undertaken for their benefit using the public resources. We also demand government to fully explain the criteria used in selecting the contractors.

“We do not want issues of national importance like this to be done in a secretive and clandestine manner. We have got the right to information as backed by the Access to information laws. Government need to learn to be open on these things and provide details of the project,” he said adding that if government decides otherwise citizens of this country have got a right to seek the interventions of the courts.

Commentators argue that while the idea of improving water supply to Lilongwe City is a noble one, and that it should be expedited, nothing should be done at the expense of making the whole country suffer.

Although managed by the Lilongwe Water Board, it has large implications for President Peter Mutharika’s government as  the board would raise loan finance on the strength of a government “sovereign guarantee”.

The chairperson of Malawi’s parliamentary committee on natural resources and climate change, Werani Chilenga, complained that the government has not been transparent on the project.

“I cannot say I have heard or know much about it – all we know is that government will give a guarantee to Lilongwe Water Board to borrow money from overseas. As a committee, we are not happy and have many questions,” he said.

Chilenga added that the committee fears the project is not economically viable and will do more harm than good to Malawians.

“Clearly government has upside-down priorities. We have power blackouts because Escom (the power utility) is failing to generate the required power due to low water levels. How do they think they will be able to generate the power needed to pump water from Salima on the lake to Lilongwe? Why should we be pumping water upland?

“This project is very costly and in the end the consumer will pay if the project fails,” he is quoted in the amaBhungane, a title for M&G.

Chilenga said principal secretary in the ministry of agriculture, Erica Maganga, failed to answer the committee’s questions when she appeared before the committee earlier this year.

“Maganga failed to convince us. She did not have a feasibility study or any information regarding any groundwork for the project, and yet Lilongwe Water Board has gone ahead and awarded the contract.

“We were not convinced about why this project should be carried out, bearing in mind the huge sums of money that could be wasted,” he said.

An expert Kenneth Wiyo,  associate professor at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) who is also a certified registered engineer with over 22 years of experience,   has also argued that crude power estimates were ranging between 68 megawatts (MW) to 128 MW in a country where Eletricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) is failing to generate 300MW putting to question on the power of energy and Escom rationale and blackouts.

Wiyo also asked:

  • Why has the low-cost approach of capturing river water before it reaches the lake, rather than being pumped uphill to Lilongwe, not been adopted?
  • The gravity method, used to feed water from Mulanje Mountain to Blantyre, would also create opportunities for hydropower generation, fish farming and tourism, Wiyo said;
  • Has any estimate been made of the power requirements of lifting water almost 2 000 feet from the lake to Lilongwe, and what will be the source of this power?
  • Wiyo said his students had estimated the required power usage at between 68 and 128MW, in a country where Escom failed to generate 300MW. He asked how the new demand would be squared with repeated blackouts and rationing across the country.
  • How much water is to be abstracted from Lake Malawi, and will it will have an impact on the outflow of the Shire River, affecting hydropower generation?
  •  What is the required pipe size; how easily and quickly can the pipes be laid; and will they be locally manufactured or imported?
  • What route will the pipeline take, and will it need land bridges and aqueducts to cross rivers, gullies and dambos? Will a storage dam be needed, like Mudi Dam in Blantyre?
  • Have studies been conducted on soils and geological formations to inform decisions on the pipe material use? Wiyo said he knew of a Malawian irrigation project where nearly 9km of piping had been replaced due to corrosion.
  • Will the proposed pipeline route involve land tenure, settlement removals and compensation issues, and who will be responsible for compensating affected communities? Wiyo said that in the past enraged communities had chased ministers from project sites to protect their interests.
  • Why has an environmental and social impact assessment not been conducted, given that it is required by Malawi’s Environmental Management Act? Wiyo said it would be a criminal offence not to conduct such a study and not to act on its recommendations.


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16 thoughts on “Malawi govt to reconsider Salima-Lilongwe water project – Finance Minister”

  1. Kent Y.G. Mphepo says:

    Dear Countrymen,

    That this is an important project there is no question in my mind. Those who may remember will recall that in or around May 2016 I wrote in The Nation Newspaper (My Turn column) that Malawi needs to find ways of using the Lake Malawi water reservoir to the maximum benefit of the population. Pumping water from Lake Malawi to Namwera Hills of Mangochi and use it for winter-cropping was one of my suggestions at that time. But, little did I know that some people, in the DPP, were already toying with the brilliant idea of pumping the water to Lilongwe City which, as we all know, is at the brink of facing a serious water crisis following the destruction of the major forest reserve (Dzalanyama Forest) and other small farm-based forest (indigenous and exotic) reserves surrounding the city’s 2 water sources, Kamuzu Dam 1 and Kamuzu Dam 2 both located in Malingunde area whose waters levels have reached a record low. I personally support the idea of pumping water from Salima and my hope is that soon or later Malawians will unite and find ways on how the project can be implemented since it has the potential of supporting not only the people of Lilongwe but also other parts of Central Region which has the biggest potential for irrigation agriculture.

    However, looking at the procedure that government is using in turning this idea into reality, and the context in which the project is being implemented and discussed, I find it immoral for me or any other well meaning Malawian to support it. Think about the following with me:

    1. Although the project will cost Malawians (you and me) MK400 Billion ($500 Million) the government of the day is not taking the matter to Parliament for our representatives to debate it thoroughly. The question is: why? Why is government using such short cuts?

    2. Although Malawi government is the guarantor of the loan that Lilongwe Water Board has been instructed to obtain oversees, nobody is telling us who exactly instructed LWB to obtain a loan involving such a colossal sum of money on our (citizen’s) behalf: Was it Parliament? Was it DPP as a political party? Was it the State President and his Cabinet? etc. Who? Is this not just another political gimmick where the president will set another foundation stone and forget about it? Do we Malawians remember the pomp that went with the launch of the Nsanje Port which was attended by two neighboring presidents only to hear a few hours later that it was just another political prank thanks the DPP and its then president Mutharika??

    3. Although the Malawi people (through government) will repay such a huge loan, why was our (government) legal advisor, the Attorney General, not consulted, let alone, engaged on the matter as we learnt from the media the other day? Why was the Lilongwe Water Board lawyer left to handle the matter alone? MK400 Billion an amount of money that one lawyer can handle without guidance from the Attorney General? Are we people serious a serious nation? If this matter is not big enough or serious enough to involve the Attorney General, what is?

    4. Mr. Simbi Phiri was fair and gentlemanly enough to openly declare that he has supported (or has been supporting?) the DPP government and the MCP financially. But, why is it only the party outside power (MCP), through Hons. Mkaka and Menyani, have been brave enough to confirm Mr. Simbi’s statement, while the DPP, the party in power, through Hons Kasaila and Dausi, has, up to now, down played the generosity and failed to officially issue a public statement to accept or refute the matter like it has always done in the past when similar issues arose? Will they, for example, organize a press conference soon where they will clear the air like they have usually done knowing the gravity of the matter at hand? In my view, should DPP fail to do this, there are all reasons to doubt their integrity on the project. It is particularly important to remember too that six months ago a nasty revelation was made in the media that the DPP was caught pants down siphoning over MK10,000,000 from the LWB coffers through a Blue Night donation and, to this day, DPP or government has not come into the media to refute this matter except we read in the media that some people at LWB faced the music for spilling the beans to the public. Would any right thinking person fail to add two + two to understand what is happening on the Khato Civils hiring by the DPP-led government? Not me.

    5. Although the Nsanje Inland Port and the Greenbelt Initiative received a lot of financial support from government no tangible results are accruing to Malawians and government or its representatives have never come forward to brief citizens what is taking place on the two projects. No report has been presented in Parliament on the progress of these important projects for Malawians to appreciate what is making it difficult for the projects to see the light of day although a lot of meetings are still taking place and more taxpayer money is being spent on them. We also know how Kayerekela Mine ended up closing down in the most unprecedented manner. What assurance is there that this time around government will become accountable to us citizens on such a large sum of money? Besides, we all know that failure to carry out a feasibility and environmental impact assessment was part of the reasons why the Nsanje Port failed. Why should we allow a project as big as the one under discussion to be implemented without any feasibility and environmental impact study yet the project is several sizes bigger than the Nsanje Inland Port Project which failed for the same reasons among others?

    6. The DPP government, through President Peter Mutharika, are aware that dwindling water levels in Lake Malawi is at the heart of poor generation` of electric power down the Shire River. And Mr. (Professor?) Wiyo, of Luarnar (Bunda College?) raises very interesting and pertinent civil engineering issues regarding the feasibility of the project as government anticipates pumping water upland. His argument is that government needs to do its homework well if this project is to materialize because lest it turns into another way of losing the tax-payer’s money.

    7. We also know that the President recently went public that government is continuing with its decision to drill oil from Lake Malawi – the issue that has, over the recent years, also earned Malawi government wild anger from the Tanzanian national leadership who have since demanded that the boundary issues that started in the 1960s be brought to their logical conclusion first. But, more than everything else, we know that Lake Malawi is a world heritage site according to UNESCO and it is rich in wildlife that need to be protected at all costs if Malawi is to get maximum benefits from its tourism industry. is this not enough reason to warrant a feasibility study on the project? I still remember that, in the 1970s Malawi government, under Dr. Banda, changed course on the implementation of the paper (rubber?) making factory at Vizara in Nkhata Bay after the environmental impact assessment showed that the project would have a negative impact on the environment and the country’s fishing industry which was a priority to government and the people around the lake. The question is: has government put all these issues into perspective as it goes public with this larger than life project? Do we have any plan that tells us how all these issues will be reconciled and explained to Malawians before the implementation stage? Is this government planning or merely responding so someone’s gut feelings on what is possible and not necessarily what is feasible at this moment in time? Are they not just lining up these projects to impress the public that something is being done to improve the economy? I personally have my suspicions.

    8. As everybody knows Salima and Mangochi have recently become difficult districts to take government decisions easily if the Bibi Kuulunda chieftaincy saga and the Monkey Bay Hotel construction saga is anything to go by. We all remember how citizens went up in arms and organized vigils at the Salima DC’s office to force government dethrone TA Kuulunda until government obliged. In 2013, in TA Namkumba’s area (Monkey Bay) one person died in a clash between police and communities over land that was earmarked for an international level hotel. The main reason was that government did not consult the people at planning stage. Is government ready to displace people in Salima, Dowa and Lilongwe before they are consulted on this current project? Are they ready to face opposition from the fishing community in Mangochi, Salima, Nkhotakota, etc, who would feel threatened by further reduction of water in Lake Malawi?

    9. What the DPP government should come to terms with is the reality that the majority of the people who populate the area where the pipeline will pass and those surrounding the lake are generally pro-opposition and politics is likely to take center stage during implementation. Now, if the Mulanje population was able to send Chaponda running during the Mulanje Water Project preparation, do they expect the Central Region people to take displacement sitting down? To me, the most sensible thing to do is for the DPP-led government to present the matter in Parliament and the communities surrounding the lake and allow a healthy debate to take place before implementation begins in order to allow the public and their political handlers understand the importance of the project not only to the people of Lilongwe City but to their own lives too. Otherwise, I personally see a repeat of the Mulanje scenario where former minister Chaponda was shown the way by angry stone-totting members of the community surrounding Mulanje Mountain not long time ago.
    10. A word to the opposition: Malawi needs to begin to move forward and I personally will be surprised if main opposition parties: MCP, PP and UDF will stand in the way of this project. This is an important project and all political parties need to support it since it will serve a large constituent of Malawian citizens. For sure, if properly and successfully implemented, this project is likely to give visibility to the DPP government. But, statesmanship requires that the general good must take precedence over our narrow and partisan interests. If we can all pursue the greater good, our country will begin to develop and all of us, including those in opposition parties, will benefit. The other good is that should those in opposition have similar projects when they are in power in future, DPP will not have the spine to oppose such projects. Be good to others today so that they can be good to you in future. Remember that “chili kumzako umati ‘chigwire nyanga!'” As a country, we should learn to scratch the backs of our political competitors so that in future they can also scratch our back.
    10. However, by saying this I am not trying to suggest that the opposition should tolerate mediocrity like what I am ready seeing here. No. They must oppose everything that is not right for Malawians. They must oppose thievery, corruption, nepotism, cronyism, etc. Malawi needs to begin to move forward and the constitution gives power to the opposition to oppose corruption or any sign of it. In other words, I am of the view that if this project has signs of mediocrity, the opposition must reject it outright.

    I rest my case,

    Kent Y.G. Mphepo (Blantyre -0888435629, [email protected])

  2. John says:

    I agree with the discussion but Malawian must know that whatever plans this country must take into account long term needs of this country. For example, the population of Malawi will be around 40-50milion in 20-30yrs time. This means whatever plans we have should take into consideration of the population projection. This also applies to all infrastructure like primary schools, colleges, food production etc.

    So government must make sure that it has long term strategic plans that will address the needs of this country. To tapping water from small sources like small dams in view of the projected population would not help. We need big projects that will ensure sustainable supply of water to our cities and districts. In view of projected population growth, government must also put in place power generation plan in order to meet the demand. One of the proposed strategies to increase power production is for government to delink all districts and rural areas from the national electricity grid and install solar power to all these districts and only connect the national grid to cities and industrial sites.

  3. Tiferanji. says:

    Bwana Goodall Gondwe osakaika ai ! kuti mwina boma liganizila kuonaso za water project ya LL. Zikuchita kuwonekeratu kuti palowa katangale wofuna kuba ndalama za nkhani-nkhani za aMalawi . aMalawi akuwona ndi chidwi ndaniso akuchita za katangale pa project imeneyi.Madzi ndiofunikadi mu tauni ya Lilongwe koma akambelembele asatengerepo mwayi kuti azembetse ndalama.AChaponda aliku? Iwe watulutsaso mphuno biii ufunaso uta? Amanyuzi a mawayilesi khalani maso ndi mbava mu boma la DPP.nanuso aphungu a nyumba ya malamulo osalekerela itengeni nkhani imeneyi. Nanuso aSimbi mufuna kugwa mmayeselo? Nesa ndinu munthu wa Mulungu? Why connive to inflate project cost? Thao shall not steal,lie or commit a crime.God is watching you.

  4. Abale 400 billion kwacha ya chani on Lake Malawi–Lilongwe water project? If Mulanje water project calls 18billion kwacha LL project should cost around 40 billion kwacha or double as much taking into account the magnitude of the project and its demand for complex feasibility studies in all affected project operation sectors and the uphilL task of lifting water up over 120ft above sea level to LL. what is trying to mature here is Zambia scenario where corrupt people in Muthalika administration manuevered on MW/Zambia maize deal scandal.Unfortunately the majority of those in authority are adicted to corruption,fraud and bribery with intent to fatten their pockets.Mind yu all this is tax payers money.To those who are crooks your time is over.Malawians are tired of these malpractices.Read the writing on the wall…you will not get away with it.Pa za project ya LL muonekera pa mbalanganda.LL Project SHOULD BE halted until suspecious moves by few greedy individuals are flashed out and justice to prevail.CEDEP,Paliamentary committee and other civil organisations should drive this matter to be transparent and accountable.Minister of Finance should be applauded for giving it a node that LL project should be reviewed.BRAVO!! Finance Minister.

  5. concerned Citizen says:

    This project is supposed to cost not more than 40 billion if we are to go by Blantyre Water board figures. Zinazo ndi zamthumba la oyan’ganira ntchitoyo. The difference is just too much.

  6. mtete says:

    You laugh your lungs out when you read some of the comments. Please let us consult widely before publishing information which may be challenged. Blantyre Water Board lifts water from Shire, quite a gradient, and uses about 20 MW or less. Where, then does the 68 to 20 MW come in the case of the Salina Water supply project. Some elaboration would help.

    My view is that this is the time to plan for adequate water supply for our ever growing Capital City.

    With regard to power supply for the project, it would be wrong to assume ESCOM/EGENCO wil forever relay on the Shire River, especially when we take into account statements from EGENCO and Mr. Msaka.

    The cost of the projects, Likhubua vs Salina cannot be simply compared when we take into account the complexities of the two schemes, i,e, intake and treatment works. The later is bound to cost more.

    Can Lilongwe Water Board please assure the Nation that the cost of power supply has been factored into the overall project cost?

  7. mtete says:

    Congratulations Dr. Gondwe. This is the way it should be: listen to the peoples’ voices

  8. Project on Lake Malawi should be halted until feasibility studies in all sectors of the project is done by independent consultant.Plse Extract sense in what Kenneth Wiyo of Luanar has said.Brilliant ideas from top class people willing to help stear the country on good cause for development.Trapence of CEDEP came up with very good advice to Govt too.Minister of Finance should be applauded for his node to review implementation of the project.Now who is this one in Gvt or DPP trying to rush an immence and co

  9. alifonso wa fridge says:

    dig deeper to the Lilingwe Board’s CEO. Isnt he the one who stole a deep freezer at the Malawi Poytechnic when he was the President of the student’s union? and come 20years later some foolish poeple decided to entrust the ‘thief’ with heading Lilngwe water board?

    Lilongwe residents you will pay the price of poor choice of CEO’s by the current DPP administration

  10. jones says:

    Some of these contributions,are just good for academic debates. Taliuzani dziko lasting solution to water shortage. lf you don’t have any, be quiet chifukwa tikhoza kuona kuti inu ndi amene mukupha amalawi

  11. kings says:

    I for one do concur with those stating that Environmental Social Impact Assessment should be carried out & bow down to its findings before commencement of this magnitude project.

  12. Henry K. says:

    The Water pumped from the Lake coming to Lilongwe should also used to generate power for Central Region while the other power stations in the south should cater for southern region.

  13. Dziko says:

    Blantyre Water Board has engaged a contractor to tap water from Mulanje Mountain to Blantyre at a cost of MK18 billion and the distance is around 59 kms.
    Khato is charging MK400 billion to tap water from Salima and the distance is about 125 kms. Malawians lets not put our childrens childrens in chains
    to be paying for the loans which a few Jim and Jacks are sharing the plunder. This is more than cashgate and we dont need such deals. Chitani manyazi chonde

  14. Zinenani Zoona says:

    Let me clarify one small thing here: Mudi dam in Blantyre is not a storage dam for water pumped from the Shire River. It is a dam own its own on the Mudi River.

  15. self centred says:

    Zalowa ndale, coz munthu said he assisted dpp with money project awarded ipangidwe withdraw, ndinamakhumucha munthuyu, mungovutika athandiza mcp uku akumangirani zipatara police unit zaulere with his money cars motorbike for free mzuzu za wanthu osayamika,

  16. benjones says:

    All project concerning lake Malawi should be held until proper research is done. Please authorities at least save our beautiful lake, you have already destroyed alot which is beyond. Please Please I beg to you all.

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