Malawi takes Lake Chilwa drying up issue to UN climate conference

As the Doha 2012 United Nations Climate Conference drew to a close on Friday, December 7, Malawi on Wednesday took time to share with delegates how climate change is threatening many livelihoods around Lake Chilwa.

The lake is one of Malawi’s precious resources with over one million people, primarily from Zomba, Phalombe and Machinga districts, benefitting from it but is now drying up resulting in many people losing their source of revenue.

The development forced Malawi’s former Minister of Environment and Climate Change Management, Catherine Gotani Hara, to tell the world a cheerless account of how the drying up, due to climate change, is impacting on the people’s lives.

“As I speak to you now, one of our precious lakes that support many livelihoods is under the threat of drying due to impacts of climate change.

“The communities depending on this Lake Chilwa are currently being subjected to unprecedented risks and shocks for which they are not prepared to cope with,” Hara said in her statement when she addressed the 18th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP 18) in Qatar.

Catherine Gotani Hara: Took the issue to Qatar

The minister was speaking in her capacity as minister responsible for Environment and Climate Change Management, a few hours before President Joyce Banda moved her to head the Ministry of Health, previously held by the country’s Vice President Khumbo Kachali.

Since the lake started drying up various stakeholders have been holding consultative meetings to thrash out the future of the panicking households benefitting from the lake.

For the last few months, scores of households have been relocating from one part of the lake to another, a move experts guess will also create many challenges such as land conflicts and health concerns resulting from poor sanitation, among others.

Lake Chilwa has ever dried up in the past with the most recent being in 1995 but it filled up after the area received good rains subsequently.

The Department of Disaster Management and Preparedness is currently working on providing coordination support to ensure that peoples’ lives around the lake are not harmfully affected.

Thousands of government representatives, international organizations and civil society members have been in the Qatari capital, Doha, for the conference which kicked off on November 26 with a call to build on and implement previously agreed decisions to curb global carbon emissions by the year 2020.

During last year’s COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, 194 countries agreed on a package of decisions – known as the Durban Platform – which include the launch of a protocol or legal instrument that would apply to all members, a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and the launch of the Green Climate Fund, which was created to help developing nations protect themselves from climate impacts and build their own sustainable futures.

Hara led the Malawi delegation at the conference which apart from the COP 18 also included the 8th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8).

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