Blantyre City’s sewerage system, set up in the 1960s, is in badly need of a major overhaul if sewage waste management is to be properly effected.
This was what Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Ben Phiri was appraised with when he was invited by the City Council for a familiarization tour of Manase and Zingwangwa sewer plants where he was briefed that they need over K8 billion to rehabilitate both them.
The tour started with briefing at Civic Offices at Chichiri attended by the Mayor Wild Ndipo, his deputy Joseph Makwinja, Council CEO Dr. Alfred Chanza and senior members of staff, where the minister was told that Blantyre City’s two major river outlets, Mudi and Nasolo are heavily polluted.
The Council management said they are currently engaging with the industries by giving them guidelines on waste management and how the industries and other corporate companies can come in to assist in many ways.
The City Council’s chemist, Flavious Kamwani appraised the Minister that they have revitalized their laboratory situated at Zingwangwa Sewerage Plant where samples of waste taken from manufacturing industries are tested to analyze levels of pollutants.
“Now that the lab is fully operational, we are able to regularly visit the manufacturing companies and when we discover elements of pollution from their waste we take action,” he said.
He also said they have amended their bylaws, which once approved, will give them more powers to punish polluters because currently the punitive measures are outdated that companies find it easy to just pay than be dragged to the courts.
Kamwani said once found guilty, the culprits will first be taken through a legal process where they will be forced to pay the fines as according to the gravity of the offense rather than just a fixed fine that is currently been used.
He said other challenges they face is vandalism of infrastructure such as the sewerage lines which spill into streams and rivers.
“The current infrastructure is also very old as well because it catered for a low population then in the 60s. Now that our city is congested, waste water is on high levels which our waste pipes cannot cope.
“Plans are there to rehabilitate our whole water waste pipes to manageable levels,” he said.
The Minister was first taken to the source for Mudi River, an outlet of Blantyre Water Board’s catchment area dam, which has cleaner water but gets contaminated as soon as it passes through the Makata industrial site.
And it gets even worse when the Mudi is joined by Nasolo River, whose source is Ndirande Hill. The Nasolo is mostly polluted by residents of the squalor slums of Ndirande.
The sad part is that the Mudi is a source of water for people downstream for domestic use and that poses a high health risk.
After appreciating the gravity of the two rivers’ pollution status, the Minister was then taken on the tour of Manase and Zingwangwa sewerage treatment plants, where he was appraised of how old the system is and that just less than 50 percent of the plants and equipment are operational.
At least, the Zingwangwa plant is being renovated by building more plants to accommodate the huge traffic of sewage waste following the mushrooming of private sewage waste disposal firms.
It is here where the Council’s laboratory tests the levels of pollution from the rivers closer to the manufacturing industries where the chemists determine the gravity of offence.
The lab monitors close to 50 companies along Nasolo and Mudi rivers through the Council’s environmental department.
And for the Council to have more powers, there is need to amend the outdated Environmental Management so that the more the pollution the more fines the culprits pay to deter the industries from the malpractice.
The Minister said he will make it his agenda to make sure the Mudi and Nasolo rivers are cleaned in order to protect the well being of the people downstream.
“What we do here affects people down stream whether positively or negatively. At the moment we are guilty that we are polluting the Mudi River because people downstream rely on it for their domestic use,” said Phiri.
The Minister said Companies that contaminate the Mudi directly should be punished and there is also need to sensitize the communities along which the rivers flow on how to manage their water waste in order not to contaminate them.
“I am impressed by the efforts being taken by the Council to address challenges they are facing because it is not easy to manage waste taking into consideration the city’s population has grown so tremendously.
“The system was set up in the 1960s and we should be thinking ambitiously on how we can move forward.
“We will see how we can source the K8 billion needed for the whole overhaul of the sewage waste management. K3.5 billion is needed for Zingwangwa and K5 billion for Manase,” said the Minister after the tour.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :