Malawi, Mozambique agree on Shire-Zambezi route study

Malawi has agreed with Mozambique  that exeprts should  assess the environmental and biodiversity implications of making the Shire and Zambezi rivers navigable so that they can launch an inland waterway project to the Indian Ocean giving Nsanje port a new lease of life.

Mozambican newspaper Notícias reported that an agreement signed Saturday in Maputo by Malawi President Joyce Banda and her counterpart Armando Ghebuza.

Late president Bingu wa Mutharika constructed  an inland port at Nsanje meant linking land-locked Malawi with the Indian Ocean port of Chinde, 238 kilometres away in neighbouring Mozambique, through the Shire-Zambezi Waterway project.

The aim was to reduce the high costs of importing and exporting goods by road via Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre and the Mozambican port city of Beria – a round trip of about 1,200 kilometres.

Nsanje port

But navigation of the Zambezi River caused misunderstandings between neighbouring Malawi and Mozambique.

According to Noticias, Malawi Foreign Minister Ephraim Mganda Chiume and Mozambican Foreign Minister Oldemiro Balói, agreed n behalf of the two countries from now on to deal with issues about the navigability of the Zambezi together.

They also gave assurances that the African Development Bank agreed to fund the feasibility study that formed part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Shire-Zambezi Waterway project signed by Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia in April 2007.

The bank’s resident representative for Malawi, Andrew Mwaba, tolds IRIN recently that the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the executing agency for the project, is “working on fulfilling conditions precedent to the first disbursement [of funding for the feasibility study],” and that the study was proceeding.

“The project is in the interest of three governments (Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia) and shelving [it] will be against the MoU the three governments signed.”

Economists said when fully operational, the Shire-Zambezi Waterway will cut down transport cost of Malawi imports by as much as 60 per cent.

The backwater southernmost district of Nsanje may soon also turn into a port cit y but currently, according to IRIN report, the Nsanje port has sat idle, gradually shedding nuts and bolts to vandals and becoming the focus of increasing resentment from local people promised jobs and development.

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