COMMUNITIES of MachingaLikwenu are blaming African Parks for lying to them that they will provide adequate clean water to compensate for the Likwenu River water, which they restricted through the construction of an electric fence around Liwonde National Park.
A visit to Kaudzu Village, Traditional Authority Sitola this week observed the communities fetching water for domestic purposes, washing clothes and dishes using Shire River water. We also saw the communities directly drinking the water from the Shire River without any treatment.
The residents said they are aware of the dangers of water borne disease but they feel they have no voice. They claim that they have been intimidated from all fronts if they happen to be found near the fence or trying to fetch water from Likwenu River.
Rose Kambalame a resident of the area said initially, there was an agreement that people will be provided with clean tap water but the situation is different.
“This leaves us with no option but to use the water from the Shire River which is readily available,” she said.
Mary Matope of the same area said poverty is making the communities who relied on Likwenu River to feel like foreigners in their own country.
“We have relied on Likwenu River since time immemorial. But the coming in of African Parks to take over management of the Park has made things difficult for us. We currently don’t have reliable water source in our village. We are powerless,” she lamented.
Levison Nsapela said the communities around Liwonde National Park are living like slaves because the security guards for the park beat up and detain innocent residents.
“It is as if we are slaves with no rights. There is one borehole for the whole village. African Parks provided taps but the water is very irregular. There were no proper consultations and awareness on the impact of African Park’s operations in our area,” he said.
Nsapela said the communities are not involved in any environmental conservation programmes but they are always fighting. “Many of our relations have been arrested for unknown reasons. They claim we are trespassing because we want to fetch water. We are suffering because we are poor and illiterate,” he alleged.
Councillor for Machinga Likwenu constituency, McDonald Makanjira said there is an acute water shortage in the area which needs urgent attention. “These people are not only exposed to water borne diseases as they are using the Shire River water but also to crocodiles,” he said.
Makanjira said African Parks cheated the communities by telling them that they were going to construct the fence to protect them from elephants.
“There is a boundary somewhere but they didn’t respect it. Imagine the guards go beyond the fence issue and go into the communities to terrorise people. They are now desperate for water at the same time being abused for claiming their rights,” he said.
However, Country Director for African Parks (Malawi) Patricio Ndadzela dismissed the allegations that the communities are making saying the organisation provided them with three taps which provide clean water.
“I have confirmed with the Park Manager just now who has assured me that there is a steady flow of water in all the taps provided to people of this area…And Likwenu river is dry now, I don’t think they could even fetch water from there,” he said.
Ndadzela said the guards have never harassed the communities but they just follow the government rules and regulations. “We maintained the original boundary of the fence. We are trying everything possible to minimise the encounter of human beings and animals which usually brings in problems.
May be they feel there is a change because of the change in the capacity to enforce the laws but there is nothing illegal,” he said, adding that he is aware that some people were arrested because they were caught poaching. African Parks assumed management of Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in 2015.
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