Government, Lilongwe Water Board turn to Mota Engil on water project


A high ranking government official has confided in Malawi News that Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) has turned to multi-national firm, Mota- Engil, to revive the Lilongwe Water Programme through the Diamphwe Dam Project.

The project was abandoned by the World Bank and the idea appeared to have fizzled out from the government system with the unveiling of the Lake Malawi Water Project.

The revelation comes as a surprise considering that LWB Chief Executive Officer, Alfonso Chikuni, gave the impression that the project was no longer under consideration when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament in March this year.


Lilongwe Water Programme has a project component that involves development of a new water source and increasing water production capacity.

“Both Lake Malawi and Diamphwe Dam projects will be pursued concurrently until there is confirmed implementation of a new water source to meet present and future water demand for Lilongwe City and surrounding areas,” Chikuni said.

He justified continuation of the Lake Malawi Water Project.


Chikuni said that Lake Malawi offers a more resilient water source since it acts as a natural dam which cleanses raw water, unlike present water sources for the board where devastation continues to reign and pollution takes a toll.

On vulnerability to climatic forces, as was the case in the two seasons of 2014/15 and 2015/16, Chikuni argued that it can only be responded to by the lake water source because, as rivers dry, the lake is the last to experience climatic shocks.

“It is always good contingency planning not to depend on one source of water for a growing city such as Lilongwe,” he said, justifying why there is need to have both, since Diamphwe and Lilongwe rivers have the same source—Dzalanyama— and that, in times of crisis, Lake Malawi will act as a steady backup.

Chikuni also said the Lake Malawi Project aims at resolving water challenges in the short term since it can be implemented relatively in the shortest time possible (2019) in comparison to Diamphwe.

The LWB CEO added that the Lake Malawi project will still undergo Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and Resettlement Action Plan (RAP), including public disclosure for three months, while a detailed design is to be done concurrently with the ESIA and RAP studies.

Chikuni also said construction would take 18 months.

“So, tentatively, the project could be commissioned in November 2019,” he said.

But visitors to the lake have noted that the shoreline has receded, an indication that the lake is drying up.

Chikuni, however, says their initial feasibility study has addressed the issue of adequacy of the lake to supply water without significantly affecting lake levels.

“This has been confirmed by long-time-series hydrological studies and the Malawi Water Resources Board has already issued Water Abstraction Right of up to 200,000 square metres a day, against the planned 100,000 square metres a day under the project,” he said.

Chikuni said LWB will be advised by government on processes to be followed in executing Diamphwe Project plan when a source of finance is identified.

“Project execution will be in accordance with procedures and guidelines applicable to national and international laws,” he insisted.

Mota-Engil, which has been in Malawi since 1991 when it won a $220 million contract to construct the lakeshore road from Dwangwa to Nkhata Bay, has its hands on numerous projects in the country.

It was awarded the management responsibility of the Malawi Ports Company which runs ports of Chipoka, Chilumba, Nkhata Bay and Monkey Bay, located along Lake Malawi, for a period of 35 years.

The company was set to construct the 80km Njakwa- Livingstonia-Chitimba Road and it was supposed to pre-finance the three-year-long project to the tune of $8million.

Motal-Engil is also doing the 92km-stretch Thyolo-Thekelani- Muona-Bangula Road, worth $64m funded by the Roads Authority.

It has also been involved in the rehabilitation of the 75km Liwonde-Mangochi Road and part of Phase 4 of the Nacala Corridor Development Project which is jointly done by Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

Completion of Diamphwe Dam would mean that Lilongwe, a city with over one million, people would have three sources of water worth over $1 billion

All along, the board has used the discontinuation of Diamphwe Project to justify the Lake Malawi Water Project pegged at $500 million which LWB embarked on without the mandatory environmental impact assessment.

The project will be undertaken by Khato Civils, a company owned by South Africa-based Malawian Simbi Phiri.

The lack of an environmental assessment forced the Malawi Law Society to go to court to stop the project until all laws are complied with.

The society got an injunction against the project in the High Court but Khato Civils had it overturned in the Supreme Court, pending an inter-partes hearing.

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