Communities in Chitipa have partnered with Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) to reforest Kalenge River catchment area for the sustainability of a US$12 million water system currently under construction to end the district’s 52-year-old water woes.
Piped water woes are a common phenomenon in Malawi. Quite often there is erratic water supply in the country’s major cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and other urban areas.
Residents have often accused water boards, which are mandated to supply water in the urban and peri-urban areas, of inefficiency to provide the precious commodity throughout the day.
However, the water boards have often attributed water shortages to erratic power supply caused by low water levels at Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) hydro power stations.
The low water levels, even at the boards’ intake weirs, have been attributed to environmental degradation due to deforestation as the ever increasing human population continues to cut down trees for various uses.
Consequently, dams for water pumping and hydro-electric power generation require frequent dredging due to siltation from soil erosion.
Some consumers, however, even complain much through social media when water is interrupted just for a few hours despite the boards explaining the problems and efforts made to restore supply.
But NRWB’s Public Relations Manager Edward Nyirenda feels it is the people of Chitipa that should complain the most because they are always supplied with water six hours a day.
“We use boreholes to supply water to people at Chitipa but ESCOM power supply is six hours per day. Most of the hours, the people have no running water due to lack of power to pump the water from the boreholes,” Nyirenda says.
“So we feel people of Chitipa should be the ones to complain the most,” he adds.
But form December 2016, Chitipa’s 52-year-old water woes will be history courtesy of the Arab Bank for Economic Development (Badea) which has financed the new water supply system project in the district.
Malawi Government secured a US$ 10 million loan from Badea and it (the government) added US$ 2 million as a top up for the project being implemented by the NRWB.
NRWB’s Director of Technical Services Mwiza Mtawali says the project consists of construction of a water intake weir on Kalenge River, 40 kilometres away from Chitipa Boma, a treatment plant, six tanks, laying of transmission and distribution pipes, office block and staff houses.
Currently, only 2, 000 households are connected to the board’s piped water from the borehole system.
“Once the project is completed it is expected to benefit over 36, 000 households living at Chitipa [Boma] and surrounding areas. They will be able to receive piped water throughout the day,” says Mtawali.
Although a perennial river, Kalenge’s water levels become very low during dry season, a situation that has created fears that the river may completely dry up if deforestation along the banks is not stopped.
There is a lot of human activity such as cultivation along the river banks which is posing serious threat to the catchment.
To this effect, Mtawali says NRWB engaged the district forestry office through the Chitipa District Council and Traditional Authority (TA) Mwenemisuku to constitute village natural resources management committees to be supported by the board in a reforestation programme.
Each of the five group village heads under TA Mwenemisuku formed a natural resources management committee.
With technical assistance from the Forestry Department, the committees were trained in tree seedling production and forest management.
“NRWB procured both indigenous and exotic seeds and gave them to the committees for propagation. We expected them to produce 100, 000 seedlings but they have managed to produce 94, 000 this season.
“We agreed that NRWB will buy the seedlings from the committees and later give them back to the communities for transplanting,” says NRWB’s Community Mobilization and Training Officer Gerald Ngulube.
He adds that there are some individuals within the communities who are also producing tree seedlings and the board is prepared to buy from them as well.
“The communities will plant the exotic seedlings on their customary land for their own use while the indigenous seedlings will be grown along the river banks and around the catchment area for conservation,” Ngulube says.
Some of the indigenous trees being propagated are Mufyoni (Syzygium cordatum), Mufu (Aningeria adolfi-friedricili) and Muchakata (Chrysophyllum gorungosanum). The trees have social economic benefits such as edible fruits to both humans and livestock.
“At some point we will engage the communities in a Beekeeping Project in the same forests. We want them to see and appreciate the value of conserving the indigenous trees,” Ngulube says.
People living around the treatment plant and along the pipe line to the district headquarters will also be supplied with the piped water.
“Communities around the source of Kalenge River at Naching’anda and Chiwula will never access our piped water because it is very far away from the treatment plant. But to make sure that they also benefit…, we will drill boreholes for them.
“We will also build a classroom block at Naching’anda Primary School. Going down the river, we will build a classroom block and a laboratory at Kalenge Community Day Secondary School,” Ngulube explains.
Construction of the water system started in July 2015 by Plem Construction Limited in joint venture with HE Jackson and has a workforce of 378 people.
“We will finish construction works on time by end of December 2016 as per our agreement with the water board,” says Plem’s Site Engineer Ullas Babu.
Chairperson for Chipwela Village Natural Resources Management Committee Lengson Mulenga says villagers have unanimously welcomed the project and are willing to support it.
“We are very excited. We know it will end the water problems we are currently experiencing. Women and girls will no longer walk long distances to fetch water from wells and streams,” Mulenga says.
“We will work with the water board to ensure that the Kalenge River’s catchment area is reforested and conserved because we are assured of tangible benefits from it,” he adds.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :