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Contractor adamant on Salima-Lilongwe water project

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KHATO Holdings, a company Lilongwe Water Board contracted on a project of tapping water from Lake Malawi in Salima to Lilongwe has said an environmental and social impact assessment, cannot stop the $500 million project.

Khato said a report of such an assessment only guides the implementation of the project.

The company has started bringing into the country machines that will be used for the project.

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Khato Holdings Chief Executive Officer, Mongezi Mnyani, however, told the media on Friday that they will not start the actual work until all issues surrounding the project are cleared.

“We have to mobilise. Mobilisation does not take a day or two. It takes a while. Even these offices, we had to hire because we needed somewhere to operate from. I had to bring in about 20 engineers, to be stationed fulltime here in Lilongwe. That’s part of mobilisation,” he said.

He added: “We are a company that lives in the 21st Century. We import the best. We do the best in terms of how we want to do the work. We are demonstrating that we are a capable company, we will do this job with speed and quality.”

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The Salima-Lilongwe water project has sparked controversy, especially over how the contract was awarded to Khato.

Some quarters have been arguing that it was a mistake to award the contract before a feasibility study and an environmental and social impact  assessment have been conducted.

Among the groups in opposition to the contract are the Malawi Law Society and the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. The Law Society even sought a judicial review on the issue.

Mnyani, however, told the media that the feasibility study was completed and the report has been submitted to relevant authorities.

“We have been working for the past two months, with the Lilongwe Water Board and the Ministry of [Agriculture and] Water [Development]. I am happy to say that as of today that document has been submitted already by Lilongwe Water Board, to various ministries for sign-off,” he said.

He also said that tenders for an independent consultant to do an Environmental Impact Assessment were closed on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Mnyani has said the company will engage the country’s development partners on the project.

“We will meet the donors so that they understand the project. Most of what they are saying is based on what they have read in the media,” Mnyani said.

According to Khato Holdings, the water tapping scheme from Lake Malawi to Lilongwe is feasible to be completed in 18 months.

The design of the project will be done in four months, procurement to be done between two to four months, while construction will be done in 12 to 14 months.

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