The Likhubula-Blantyre Water Project which was meant to improve supply in Blantyre City and surrounding areas is facing major glitches as a very small portion of the amount of water that was supposed to be extracted reaches the commercial city.
Despite Blantyre Water Board (BWB) spending on the project in excess of $23.5 million (approximately K17.6 billion) from Export-Import Bank of India, out of 20 000 cubic metres of water which were supposed to be added to BWB output, the utility institution is only pumping less than 10,000 cubic metres.
While this is the case, water challenges persist in the city where few weeks ago, some residents from Machinjiri Township petitioned the board on the problem, further stating that they were receiving exorbitant bills amidst dry taps.
Water resources expert Elias Chimulambe said it is unfortunate that the system is not working as expected. According to Chimulambe, the problem is something that should have been foreseen.
“Mulanje Mountain is a high rainfall area. When there is no rain it means there is a drop in water which is supplied to the river. This is something which would have been seen even before the feasibility study,” Chimulambe said.
Going forward, Chimulambe said the board needs to construct a big water reservoir which can be collecting water from all the rivers on the mountain including Likhubula which will then be fed into the system.
“What if we don’t have enough rains next year and the other year? We shall have lost billions of money and, mind you, this is a loan which we have to pay back,” he said.
BWB Chief Executive Officer Dan Chaweza said the problem has resulted from the fact that rain stopped earlier than normal during the last rainy season.
“We are now in a dry month where demand for water is very high. At the same time, you will recall that rains stopped a bit earlier during the last rainy season and that is why we do not have enough water in Likhubula River.
“You will also remember that at first, locals opposed the project because of the same reason that there would not be enough water in the river. We had to change the project designs to accommodate them and instead of getting the water above Dziwe la Nkhalamba, we moved our intake to below. This also affected the availability of the water,” he said.
According to the project overview on BWB’s website, the project was aimed at extracting water from Likhubula River in Mulanje which is about 55 kilometres (km) away from the City of Blantyre.
At the commencement of the project BWB was producing a total of 101 million litres per day from Walkers Ferry and Mudi Dam against a daily water demand of 123 million litres.
The project was also expected to help BWB to reduce the cost of electricity as water would gravitate for a distance of about 44 km without being pumped.