World Bank to invest $125m in Malawi’s largest river basin

Malawi’s Shire River Basin will receive a $125 million boost for improving land and water management potentially directly benefitting livelihoods of 430,000 people while conserving the Basin’s resources and ecosystem to generate benefits for millions that depend on it.

The Bank’s Board of Executive Directors announced on Thursday that it  approved the project to cover the first phase of the Shire River Basin Management Program (SRBMP).

With growing and competing demands on Shire waters, the project is supporting the Malawi Government’s long-term vision to better manage resources of the Shire Basin. The program intends to increase social, economic, and environmental benefits from the river while protecting the ecosystem services.

Sandra: World Bank Board has approved $125 million

The 520 km long Shire River provides water for agriculture, fisheries, hydropower generation, tourism, urban water supply, and associated environmental functions.

The Basin faces many other important challenges such as severely degraded watersheds, an ecology that is threatened, and susceptibility to water-related natural disasters.

“The Shire Basin is very prone to floods that frequently disrupt livelihoods of thousands of people. So part of the planning activities will develop a weather, hydrologic, and flood forecasting and warning system for better climate resilience of the communities in the lower Shire,” said Sandra Bloemenkamp, World Bank Country Manager for Malawi.

Other activities include an integrated planning and investments for flood risk management infrastructure.

The first phase will lay the information, institutional, and investment foundations for the program.

A Shire River Basin Plan, atlas and a state of the basin report will be published to facilitate better understanding of the basin through a structured knowledge base. It will inform decisions on future investments such as irrigation, hydropower, and flood management.

The planning framework will also include the establishment of a multi-sectoral Shire Basin institution to support long-term planning and management of the basin.

A key component of the project is rehabilitating the 47-year old Kamuzu Barrage which regulates water flows. The Bank’s Task Team Leaders for the project Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep and Pieter Waalewijn say the barrage will be upgraded to better manage multi-sectoral demands in real time and increase water security for critical downstream users such as hydropower plants that generate the bulk of Malawi’s electricity.

The project will also support feasibility and design studies for new water related infrastructure in the Shire River Basin.

Another key component is supporting catchment plans and harmonized national guidelines. Selected catchment areas will be rehabilitated through promoting such interventions as soil and water conservation; forestry; stream and water control, including check dams and small earth dams.

Communities will be strengthened to participate in catchment management by building their capacity to undertake income generating activities.

Large natural habitats within the Shire Basin such as Lengwe and Liwonde National Parks, the forest reserves in Neno, and the vast elephant marshes will also benefit from activities to strengthen ecological management.

In this project, the World Bank is collaborating with the Global Environment Facility and Least Developed Countries Fund which are contributing $6.58 million. Of the $125 million provided by the Bank, 75 per cent is a credit while 25 per cent is a grant.

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