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Government yields to Mulanje pressure

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Barely a week after Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister, George Chaponda, was stoned in Mulanje District where he went to inspect a water intake point at Likhubula on Mulanje Mountain, government has finally agreed to plant trees on the mountain before the Blantyre Water Board starts pumping water from the mountain, as demanded by residents of the district.

On Tuesday August 30, Chaponda had a taste of the wrath of some members of local communities who want government to reforest the mountain, supply water to the residents under the project and also close down the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT).

And the communities trading under the name Citizens for the Protection of Mulanje Mountain (CPM) led by their General Secretary, David Majeweta, fear that the K17.1 billion project will completely leave the mountain bare.

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The community’s resistance towards the project forced Presidential Adviser on Non- Governmental Organisations, Mavuto Bamusi, meet the grouping yesterday.

According to Majeweta, the members stood their ground not to allow government to commence the project until trees are planted on the mountain.

“We met Mr Bamusi who heard our concerns and we reached a consensus where government through him has agreed to plant trees on Mulanje Mountain and that is before they start tapping water from the mountain to Blantyre. As we earlier indicated, we are not against the project but we want everything to go on smoothly. We will also be setting up a committee to lead in this process because the committees we were entrusting in the past have failed us,” Majeweta said.

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He also said that before the commencement of anything regarding the project, government, the grouping and all the concerned stakeholders will have to sign a memorandum of understanding to prevent any of the parties from breaching the agreement.

He could, however, not mention the number of trees CPM wants to be planted on the mountain saying government through the Department of Forestry will account for that.

“All we know is that about 3, 500 hectares of land have been depleted on the mountain and we want all that land to be replanted,” he said.

Bamusi described the meeting as helpful saying that the interests of CPM are similar to what President Peter Mutharika has on the matter.

“It seems although there were minor disagreements we have the same [interests] in common. They said they are in support of the project to ensure access to potable clean water and that trees should be planted on the mountain and government also wants to ensure the same. So, I will take whatever we have agreed in the meeting to the President,” Bamusi said.

Apart from CPM, officials from the district commissioner’s office, civil society organisations and officials from the MMCT also attended the meeting.

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