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‘Dodma powerless to force relocation’

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Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, Ben Botolo, has said the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) can only warn people against continued stay in disaster-prone areas but has no power to force them relocate uplands.

Botolo was reacting to a question on what the government is doing to people who continue staying in low-lying areas despite the threats of floods in the current rainy season.

He said the department, through the offices of district commissioners, has been warning people to move from the disaster areas and some have been moving while others are still clinging to such areas.

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“After the floods [in 2015], some people went back to the disaster-prone areas while others relocated. Some of them went back to their original lands for economic reasons such as farming, and through district councils, we have been advising them to move to safer places. But as you know, we can only advise them to move uplands but we cannot force them to do so,” Botolo said.

He said the Dodma understands that natural disasters such as floods can happen anywhere, as was the case with Mzuzu City this year but some areas are obviously at risk of floods and the wise decision is for people to move out of those areas.

“As a department, we cannot say we will build houses for people who are willing to relocate as building houses for such people is not within our mandate. But we may provide some materials such as plastic sheets, some food and plastic plates and cups as starter pack to those people who cannot afford. People should make a decision to avoid disasters,” he said.

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The Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services has said the downpours resulting from La Niña weather condition are likely to trigger floods in flood-prone low-lying areas in the Southern Region and lakeshore areas.

According to the department, during the period January to March 2017, the greater part of the country is expected to experience normal to above normal rainfall amounts.

The latest statement that the Director of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, Jolamu Nkhokwe, issued on Sunday indicates that, overall, the greater part of the country is going to experience normal to above normal rainfall amounts during October 2016 to March 2017.

“This means many areas of the country are expected to experience good rainfall with flood-prone areas experiencing floods due to heavy rains but suppressed rains in drought-prone areas. It is therefore advisable to pay due attention to weather forecast updates on local media for planning daily and weekly activities,” Nkhokwe said.

In January 2015, the country experienced the worst floods in history in which over 170 people reportedly died and over 200,000 people were displaced and at that time calls for people in low-lying areas to relocate became so loud only to die with time.

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