Police recover steel bars stolen from Shire Valley Transformation Project construction site

During a patrol exercise along the road leading to the construction site at Kapichira for the Shire Valley Transformation Project, Chikwawa police officers stopped a vehicle and discovered it was loaded with assorted construction enforcement metal bars.

A report from Chikwawa Police Station’s public relations officer, Sergeant Dickson Matemba said one other vehicle was impounded a day later and that a suspect in connection to the case has since been arrested.

Sergeant Matemba reports that the first vehicle was spotted coming from the direction of the construction site of the World Bank-funded government project — thus the police suspected the metal bars were stolen from the contractor, Conduril Construction Limited.

The second vehicle impounded the following day

The report identifies the suspect as Navaya Mainato (45), of Nthukuso Village, Traditional Authority Malemia in Nsanje District and he and an accomplice who escaped were driving a Probox vehicle registration number RU9956.

When the owner escaped leaving behind the driver, the police — who were on a routine patrol along this stretch — arrested the driver and impounded the vehicle.

The police made a follow up the following day by visiting the scene where they intercepted the vehicle together with the driver of the Probox, who spotted and identified his key accomplice connected to the metal bars — who was coincidentally in another motor vehicle registration number BW3173.

The metal rods as packed in the Probox vehicle

Sergeant Matemba reports that the police patrol intercepted this second vehicle and upon searching it they discovered it carried other similar construction enforcement metal bars.

The driver was arrested and admitted to have also been involved in stealing the metals that were intercepted by the police the previous day.

Sergeant Matemba said both vehicles are being kept at Chikwawa Police Station as further investigations on the matter have been instituted to arrest more perpetrators.

“Police in the district assures the public of tight security towards all government projects in the district,” said Sergeant Matemba in his report.

Sources in Chikwawa indicate that theft of construction materials in rampant at the site, most of which goes unreported because it is being done in collusion with staff members that include its security detail.

But having been alerted by the contractor, the police intensified its patrol along the road to Kapichira that has led to the two arrests.

The Shire Valley Transformation Program’s objective — which was launched in March 2020 by former President Peter Mutharika — is for Malawi to increase agricultural productivity and commercialization for targeted households along the Shire Valley and to improve the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources.

The project aims to provide access to reliable gravity-fed irrigation and drainage services, secure land tenure for smallholder farmers and strengthen management of wetlands and protected areas in the Shire Valley.

However, the project was heavily compromised due to the Tropical Cyclone Ana in January when its construction of the 12 gate intake was washed away by the heavy floods

On a visit to the site two weeks later to assess the extent of the damage, Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe was appraised that the project’s management — in partnership with funders, the World Bank and other development partners — had re-engaged the consultants to redesign the irrigation canal’s intake to withstand any other future forces of nature.

The redesigning process includes collaboration with the Ministry of Energy through Electricity Generation Company of Malawi (EGENCO) — whose Kapichira Dam was overloaded and thus broke and compromised the construction of the SVTP intake.

Progress on construction of the intake and first 6km of the main canal was at 61% but it should have been at 81% by December — which was delayed due to several challenges that included CoVID-19 pandemic.

In his presentation, the project’s irrigation engineer, Martin Chizalema  told the Minister that Cyclone Ana affected construction leading to a temporary suspension of works on two affected parts — the intake foundation and part of Siphon 1.

He assured that the canal are intact and that so far, whose over 4kms has been lined with concrete with 2 of 3 bridge crossings completed and that works on bridge 3 have started as well as that of the three siphons.

“The flume has been completed and all the 14-drainage works have been completed,” Chizalema had said. “Works still continue on construction of the canal including the third bridge on the 6km route, including excavation of the fish barrier and the remaining parts of the stretch.

“Animal escape routes, drainages along the maintenance road along the canal, protection works along the canal embankment will also be constructed.”

The first part of the canal — whose total distance is 52kms from the intake at Kapichira Dam to Lengwe National Park — passes through Majete Game Reserve — thus the bridges and animal escape routes.

The floods breached Kapichira Dam’s dykes that control water flow and direction of the Shire River as well as STVP’s coffer dam which flooded the intake foundation.

The Shire River completely rediverted to its original course thus breaching the intake and damaged a section of the 750-meter siphon which connects the intake and the main canal.

Construction of the intake structure was at foundation stage together with two yet-to-be-completed superstructures of front wing walls. However, one incomplete wing wall was washed away.

Chizalema said all critical structures are intact including the flume, siphon, culverts and the main canal, whose deadline of completion was March this year but has since been extended to another 12 months.

He also said the contractor for the next stage of the 6km stretch, Synohydro was also involved in the collaborative assessment process in a spirit of team work.

On his site visit in December 2020, Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who is also Minister responsible for Economic Planning and Development, said the irrigation project was in line with MW2063 development agenda.

“One of the pillars in the 2063 agenda talks about agriculture commercialization, and the other one talks about industry,” he told the media that accompanied him. “This project intends to graduate smallholder farmers into commercial farmers, which is a plus, not just for the Lower Shire but for the country as a whole.”

The canal shall irrigate 43,700 hectares of land in the Valley for over 223,000 people (as according to 2016 census) including areas under Illovo Sugar, Phata, Kasinthula and all Cooperatives with irrigable areas especially on the eastern side of the canal.

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