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Flashing K8 billion down the river

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KASOMEKERA— January
salaries have been paid

There was excitement and jubilation among community members in Chikwawa District on May 16, 2019 when former President Peter Mutharika commissioned the 180m long Chapananga Bridge on Mwanza River.

Who could have blamed the communities? They had seen a lot of torture in the absence of the bridge as they had witnessed many loved ones being swept by the cruel Mwanza River, especially in the rainy season.

The bridge, billed as the longest in Malawi, connects Chimwanjale and Chibisa wards in Chikwawa West constituency and was meant to provide solutions to the transportation challenges the people of the constituency have been facing to access health care services as well as take their agricultural produce to the market.

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But less than four years down the line, the bridge is just an island. It cannot be used. The bridge was cut off by heavy flooding caused by Tropical Storm Ana in January 2022.

Now it’s back to square one as communities struggle to cross the river again, especially in the rainy season. The excitement that engulfed Chikwawa District on May 16 2019 is gone.

Rising in Parliament, Chikwawa West lawmaker Susan Dossi is worried with the challenges communities in the constituency and the whole of Chikwawa District continue to face in the absence of the bridge.

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But in his response, Transport Minister Jacob Hara makes a painful revelation that the Chapananga Bridge was built in a wrong place and may need to be abandoned.

“It is a very bad location for a bridge. No wonder the things we are seeing now. That bridge is left there as an island,” Hara says.

He adds that if he was there he would have insisted that authorities could not have a bridge there despite the political interference that was there to just please a chief

According to Hara, Chapananga Bridge needed to have been taken upstream where there would have a lasting bridge and the road that would last.

So just like that. A hasty decision to please a traditional leader could make Malawi to lose K8 billion down the Mwanza River.

Mulanje Bale lawmaker Victor Musowa demands an explanation on what the government will do with the engineers who ill-advised government to build the bridge at a wrong place resulting into the waste of billions of kwacha.

Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director Willy Kambwandira believes that what happened on Chapananga Bridge is clear demonstration of poor use of tax payers money.

“Communities just need to be enlightened instead of politicians choosing to lie at the expense of technical excellence. Again, Parliament has to raise to provide to the desired oversight role,” Kambwandira said.

Speaking during the 2023 National Development Conference, Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament Chairperson Gladys Ganda admitted that Parliament had not done a good job in monitoring various development projects.

Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) Malawi Chairperson, Joe Ching’ani, says CoST has always promoted transparency and accountability in infrastructure projects.

“Those mandated to carry out redress will thus ably do so from a well-informed position. In this regard CoST Malawi launched the ippi.mw portal to help achieve this level of disclosure,” Ching’ani said.

In its latest Country Climate and Development Report for Malawi, the World Bank calls on Malawi to start erecting structures that could be resilient to climate change, adding that spending money on the very same structures could delay the realisation of Malawi 2063.

The bank warns that climate change will make it harder for Malawi to achieve its ambitious development goals— unless it accelerates policies and programmes, as intended in its Malawi 2063 vision, and supplements this effort with additional investment in adaptation.

World Bank Country Manager for Malawi Hugh Riddell says Malawi’s pathway to economic growth is persistently halted by climate shocks, leaving many millions trapped in poverty for many decades.

According to World Bank, without these investments, climate change could reduce the GDP by three to nine percent by 2030, six to 20 percent by 2040, and eight to16 percent by 2050.

The Country Climate and Development Report says climate change is also reducing the resilience of households and could increase poverty rates in the country, potentially pushing another two million people into poverty over the next 10 years.

One thing for sure is that Malawi which ranks among the world’s top poorest countries does not have the luxury of wasting resources.

Politics or no politics, Malawi should only ensure that the right thing is done.

As for the people of Chikwawa West, they still look up to government to fix Chapananga Bridge.

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