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Decent houses for the affected

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The Infrastructure Development (IDP) component of the United States-funded $350.7 million Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact has affected 6,290 people. Some of the affected have had their fields, trees and other property destroyed to pave the way for the projects. One of the affected is 25-year-old Efinati Handisoni from Zidze Village in Traditional Authority Chadza in Lilongwe.

Handisoni’s house sits along the area that a 132kV Overhead Line will pass through from the New Lilongwe Power Substation, currently under construction at Nkhoma, to Bunda Substation. Her house will, therefore, be demolished to pave the way for the overhead lines.

Millennium Challenge Account (MCA-Malawi), the entity government established to manage the implementation of the Compact, dangled two compensation options to Handisoni and the rest of the people who will have their houses demolished in all project areas. The first was cash compensation and the second was construction of a new house.

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The mother of three went for a new house.

“I realised that while money is good, it is not sustainable. I knew that a house will be there for a long time compared to money,” said the visibly excited Handisoni immediately after MCA-Malawi officials in company of consulting engineers, Image Designs and resettlement consultants, Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (Smec) handed over ownership certificate and keys to the house.

“I can’t believe I am the owner of this house. Initially, I thought it was a joke,” she says in company of Group Village Head Chaponda of the area.

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Under IDP, MCA-Malawi, through the Compact, has engaged a number of international companies to lead in the implementation of various projects. Andritz Hydro of Austria in joint venture with Portuguese firm, Mota-Engil, is rehabilitating and modernising Nkula A Hydro Power Plant, an Indian firm Larsen and Toubro is constructing two power substations at Phombeya in Balaka and Nkhoma in Lilongwe. Larsen and Toubro will also construct, expand and rehabilitate substations in the Southern Region districts of Blantyre, Thyolo, Machinga, Zomb a and Mangochi.

Another Indian firm, Kalpataru Power Transmission Limited, is constructing a 173-kilometre long 400 kilovolts Overhead Line from Balaka to Lilongwe and a 132 kilovolts Overhead Line from Chintheche in Nkhata Bay to Bwengu in Mzimba. Chinese firm, Chint Electric Company, is constructing two new power substations at Chintheche and Bwengu as well as expansion and modernisation of a substation at Bunda turnoff roundabout.

South African firm, Consolidated Power Projects Limited, has been engaged to rehabilitate and modernise the electricity infrastructure in Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

In all these areas, 261 dwelling houses have been affected and will have to be demolished and, out of these, 91 have opted for cash compensation while 170 opted for replacement of their structures by the Compact. Currently, 101 houses are under construction with some of them already completed.

Following this, MCA-Malawi engaged local firms, Primo Construction, Mark Construction, Dika Construction Limited and DBM in joint venture with M&J, to construct the houses. The size of each house to be constructed was determined by the size of the original house that was to be demolished. So far, 57 houses have been completed and handed over to the owners.

“The houses have changed the face of my village,” says GVH Chaponda. “In fact, if you are not careful, you would think this place is a health centre.”

Zidze, a village under GVH Chaponda, has seven houses with six out of the seven constructed within a radius of 200 metres.

“I did not interfere with the choices they made because I wanted to give them the freedom. But I am personally happy that they made good decisions by choosing houses over money,” GVH Chaponda says.

MCA-Malawi, through Image Designs, the consulting engineers, will be responsible for all maintenances during the first year of the houses, according to Pahlane Sambo, Image Designs Senior Graduate Architect.

However, Sambo told the beneficiaries during the official handover that maintenances will be done for only faults that will come as a result of defects in the construction and not for breakages.

“We will not be responsible if the houses will, for example, have windows broken by children or any breakage. This is why we are also asking you not to do any alterations or extensions to the houses for one year because we may not know if cracks, for example, develop out of poor workmanship or something else,” Sambo told the beneficiaries.

MCA-Malawi’s Director of Infrastructure, Felix Nkhoma, says the completion and subsequent handover of the houses is a step forward in the implementation of the projects under the Compact.

“We have also covered a lot of ground in paying cash compensations which give us assurance that resettlement challenges will be minimised,” Nkhoma says.

Apart from the infrastructure component, the Compact has the Power Sector Reform and the Environment and Natural Resources Management as the other two components complementing infrastructure development.

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