By Wezzie Gausi:
For people living in the remote village of Chakhutamadzi, land and water are precious resources.
In this village, climate change has resulted in many water sources to dry up, causing shortages particularly during the dry season.
The village, in Traditional Authority Chitukula, in Lilongwe, has two manufacturing companies that have contributed to environmental ruin there.
Having enough water for families means making several two-hour hikes uphill each day to the nearest spring.
The extensive time required to fetch the water result in strict rationing of its use, with drinking and cooking accorded the highest priority, followed by cleaning of utensils. Maintaining proper hygiene and sanitation on top of that was practically impossible.
Meanwhile, for Maless Banda, and others living in Chakhutamadzi Village, oil spillages from the companies have also rendered their farming land unsuitable for crop cultivation.
Over the years, since the coming in of these companies, the people have been at risk of having contaminated water due to the spillages.
On top of that, the community is also exposed to a range of climate change-induced threats such as flash floods and landslides, windstorms, forest fires and seasonal water shortages.
Thus, women tend to face greater hardships than men because they have traditionally been responsible for water-dependent household duties such as cooking, cleaning and washing.
According to Group Village Head Chakhutamadzi, hunger is now part of the community as they cannot produce enough food for themselves and rely on sources like donations from well-wishers.
The local ruler states that the land in his jurisdiction was fertile and good for crop production until the manufacturing companies came in.
Apart from ruining the farmland, the companies also allegedly grabbed some pieces from locals apparently after being given permission by the government.
“We hear when government is selling land belonging to people, there is need for compensation. But, in our case, we have not received any penny from companies that have taken our land.
“We are worried that our children will have nothing to inherit from us. One day, we will wake up only to find that all our land has been taken away from us by foreigners. We will become foreigners in our own country,” Chakhutamadzi said.
Recently, the Department of Environmental Affairs issued a letter in which it directed the closure of the factories until they are able to manage the waste that they are producing.
The department’s public relations officer, Sangwani Phiri, said they arrived at the decision of closing the factories because they did not comply with what they were supposed to do in terms of waste management.
Phiri said the company was advised to maintain the ponds after several inspections as they were overflowing to the nearby communities.
“When we received complaints from the surrounding community, we did our own inspection and noted that the complaints were true. We then advised the companies to follow the rules and regulations regarding waste management,” Phiri said.
But for communities in Chakhutamadzi Village, the worst damage has already been done. It will be difficult for them to retain the lost glory in their crop fields even if the concerns they raised are addressed.
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