Blantyre Water Board (BWB) and communities surrounding Mulanje Mountain have finally buried the hatchet and embarked on a tree planting exercise around the Likhubula River catchment area yesterday.
The communities placed the tree planting exercise as a condition for the board to embark on a project to tap water from Likhubula River to Blantyre.
Last year, the then Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, was stoned by the locals who rejecting the project unless BWB planted the trees.
Mulanje Forest Reserve Plantation Manager McArthur Awali said the people understood that their livelihood was in danger with the unprecedented deforestation on the mountain.
“It was the people who rejected the project [to tap water from Likhubula River] unless the board made efforts to plant trees. Most of the people here are sawyers and they know that their livelihood is in danger,” he said.
At the end of the exercise this year, the people are expected to plant about 43,000 seedlings of pine trees on about 32.5 hectares with funding from BWB.
An additional 100,000 seedlings are expected to be planted during the next tree planting season.
One of the concerned citizens, who initially objected to the project, Wyson Liwonde, said the locals appreciate that water is life and they cannot stop BWB from carrying out the project.
He, however, faulted their previous committee for failing to necessitate proper communication between themselves and the board.
Mulanje Water Project Team Leader at BWB, Stanley Bakolo, said the project would help the board satisfy the demand of their customers.
“Currently, Blantyre Water Board produces 96,000 cubic metres of water against a daily demand of about 110,000 cubic metres. The project will add about 20,000 cubic metres per day which will suffice the deficit,” he said.
The people have so far planted about 5,000 hectares of the trees on the mountain.
The K17 billion project to tap water from Likhubula River in Mulanje to Blantyre is expected to commence end June.
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