Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) Wednesday engaged key stakeholders in the oil, liquid and gas industries on new service station construction and decommissioning guidelines aimed at promoting safety of people and their surroundings.
Speaking during a meeting held at Capital Hotel in Lilongwe, Mera’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Collins Magalasi said the new guidelines are key in safeguarding the industry and promoting investment returns for business people.
“These standards are important in measuring compliance and deficiencies related to this industry. It is our duty to promote standard fuel practices in guaranteeing safety to the people and their surroundings,” Dr. Magalasi said.
He added that the absence of these guidelines in the first place resulted in reduction of investment returns because many business people felt insecure to invest in the industry.
“Any investor would want to operate in a safe environment guaranteed by proper and standard regulations. Safe business is good business,” Magalasi said.
The new regulations empower Mera to promote order in the designing of service stations through inspection before, during and after construction as well as during their operations.
Some of the guidelines are that a service (filling) station should not be constructed within a 100 metre radius to a public institution like a school, hospital, church, stadium or any place where people gather and that construction of the same should be done after developing an environment management plan.
Another guideline states that construction of a new service station should be one kilometre away from another existing service station.
On how the regulations will apply on already existing stations which are close to each other and residential areas, Magalasi said the authority will not apply the regulations retrospectively. Instead, it will take its standards and assess areas that need to be improved so that the existing stations can easily migrate to the new standards.
The guidelines further outline the process of decommissioning a service station once the owner stops using it.
The development of the new guidelines and regulations have come because of uncoordinated construction of service stations which pose huge safety risks to the society, according Mera’s director of fuel and gases, Alinafe Mkavea.
“Some service stations are so close to each other and if one could catch fire, it would be difficult to carry out fire-fighting measures,” Mkavea said.
She added that the new guidelines will help to check this unregulated construction that has always been the centre of controversy because of the construction of some stations close to facilities like hospitals.
The new guidelines became effective on 15 September, 2017.
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