Blue Waters Hotel in Salima — managed by Serendib Hotels — was discovered to have been discharging faecal waste into Lake Malawi and has since been fined K5 million by Malawi Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA).
The fine has been condemned by the public as too little for such a serious breach of protecting the environment, which is supposed to be kept clean and healthy.
An ardent environmentalist, Mathews Malata — a LEAD Fellow and award winning journalist — brought the sad development to the public through his Facebook page.
He wrote: “If you have been at Blue Waters Hotel in Salima and have used their toilets before, begin to imagine that all your faecal matter may have ended up in the fresh waters of Lake Malawi. Probably next day you spent the whole day swimming in the Lake.
“Besides the fine, MEPA on Friday ordered the hotel to rectify all issues. MEPA discovered leakages and other shortcomings with the entire wastewater management system and concluded it is not fit for purpose.
“Samples were collected and further tests will be done to determine water quality levels. MEPA also inspected other hotels within the district. They are doing this as part of their routine inspection exercises.
“Good but not good enough,” continued Malata. “They should have closed this place — they have no better standing to continue with business in this country. Very embarrassing.
“Going to this place again? What do you think?” he wrote and the responses were of utter disgust, saying “this is very unfortunate and embarrassing” and that the “fine is too small for this act”.
Jenkins Chilembo responded to declare that this was unacceptable, saying: “I think we should stop patronizing the place for a while — that’s what other countries do. Imagine the impact on the surrounding villages.”
Felix Chingwalu said: “Koma aMalawi timatoledwa kobasi in each and every angle, popanda popumira (Malawians are always taken for granted in every aspect of their lives).”
Journalist Howard Mlozi described this as a serious offense — that it was horrible to imagine that all along guests who swam in the waters might have swallowed the wasted waters.
Monica Manda said Blue Waters management were deliberate in spewing such waste into the lake, saying: “They have posters around their beach prohibiting residents from swimming but use the pools instead”, to which Michelle Jays PinUp agreed that indeed they encourage guests to use the pool than the lake.
Dyson Milanzie, Constance Maunde and several others described this act as “wickedness”, saying the K5 million fine is just too lenient — not fitting the crime committed but “closing the facility makes sense”.
While urging MEPA to close the facility, Kondwani Kayikazinge Nyirenda also asked for more such checkups on all holiday resorts along Lake Malawi, saying this could be a tip of an iceberg as there are probably more such culprits, to which Loudon Silwamba agreed, while expressing his concern over how people love swimming on the lake.
Edward Kambewa asked if the country’s environmental policing authorities if they are involved when investors construct such facilities in line with the Environmental Act.
While Samuel Kay Mfune asked “where was MEPA all this time? These issues would have been tackled and rectified a long time ago if the project had undergone an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).
“Sometimes, it’s a matter of negligence on the part of the authorities that are mandated to oversee such kind of matters”, to which Prince Foley emphasised that ESIA report is an important tool when planning to implement any project to avoid negatively impacting the environment and society.
He said when concerned experts talk of the emphasis and for ESIA in all projects, “people tend to think we are against development, etc. This hotel must be closed down.
“Akamamanga malo ngati awa sipamakhala dongosolo la boma kuti awone ndondomeko zake? — because this is too bad indeed and the fine is too small.”
However, another journalist Herbert Chiyambi Chandilanga moderated the fury, observing that Serendib Blue Waters Hotel management has been asked to rectify all problems identified — “so, there’s no problem supporting them if they atone for their sins and change, going forward”.
He agreed that the fine “could have been heftier” while also asking what the law provides as a maximum punishment.
Enzuku Zuku also agreed with Chandilanga, saying there is no need of closing down Serendib Blue Waters but rather be asked to improve on environmental standards “to avoid future occurrence of the same — we need such investments”.
Noel Mkwaila said the punishment should have been heftier to deter other offenders rather than the suggestion of closing the hotel, saying “this is one of the most, among the few, beautiful hospitality facilities the country has”.
He suggested that Serendib Blue Waters should be tasked “to purify the area it has polluted and be given a task to take care of it always”.
“Additionally, add another punishment to, at least, grow trees somewhere else and take care of them until they grow. On top of that, the hotel should advocate for clean environment for at least a period of five years.
“This can help the country much better than completely closing it as it will be double, if not triple, the loss. That’s my thinking — koma 5 mita only ndiye mboladi.”
Henry Mankhanamba said: “Good that the mess is known. They will fix the problem. This place was inherited from the Jumbes; the site is nice and we need great places like this place.
“Let them get organized. Pajanso Water Board mu Lilongwe had sewage in their water,” he said in reference to the case of July 17-18, 2017 when residents of Area 18 in Lilongwe were subjected to drinking water from their household taps that was contaminated with human faeces.
It led to 325 residents suing the concerned authorities who were compensated with K4.5 million each last year after Lilongwe High Court’s Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda found two defendants guilty of disregard of duty.
Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda had said in his ruling that this was “a very unique case, probably the first of its kind in Malawi’s jurisprudence” adding that the victims “suffered a horrible experience — an experience that they would not want to remember but unfortunately will never be erased in their minds”.
While the comments flowed, Dannie Kachilonda brought a new dimension, asking for an explanation as to where faecal waste for local lake vessels are discharged.
He said he has never seen a faecal waste collection vehicle at Nkhata Bay Jetty ever since his entire stay there and kept wondering why there was huge fish activity around the lake vehicles whenever they dock at the jetty and once they leave, the fish disappear from view.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :