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Malawi, Tanzania strengthen ties

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By Feston Malekezo in Kyela, Tanzania:

Malawi and Tanzania have launched the Songwe River Basin Commission as they seek to strengthen bilateral ties.

Officials from the two countries witnessed the launch in Kyela District, Tanzania, on Monday.

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Deputy Minister of Water and Irrigation for Tanzania, Jamaah Hamidu Aweso, said the commission would, among other things, promote integration through resource-sharing.

The establishment of the commission follows the development of Songwe River Basin Development Programme in 2001.

The development of the programme, which was done in two phases, came about after it was noted that over 52, 000 people, from a total of over 341,000 people who stay in the basin, are affected by problems such as floods and land loss as Songwe River changes course every year.

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Eighty percent of the total population living on the basin is that of the rural poor and the average per capita is USD [United States dollars] 386 per year, below the international poverty line of USD456.

“Rapid population growth in recent years has put significant pressure on the local environment and led to severe degradation of the basin’s natural resources. Erosion and other adverse ecological impacts can lead to reduced agricultural production and result in increased poverty, inequality and loss of livelihoods,” he said.

It is expected that, by 2025, there would be increased access to electricity by 60 percent among people who stay in the basin and the two countries.

It is also expected that over 450,000 people would benefit from water supply and sanitation services.

Malawi’s Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister, Joseph Mwanamvekha, echoed Aweso’s sentiments.

“Our country has been facing problems of serious power shortages and food insecurity, which the programme will address. The programme has been framed to reduce poverty, spaur economic growth, improve health and livelihoods, enhance food and energy security for the basin and the two countries and reduce socio-economic challenges people in the flood plain face due to the meandering of the river,” Mwanamvekha said.

He added that the programme would facilitate private sector development and job creation.

Phase one of the Songwe River Basin Programme, which was done between 2001 and 2003, had the two governments conducting an in-depth feasibility study on needs of people of the basin.

The findings proposed the construction of three flood control dams, with each dam being turned into a hydropower plant, among other developments.

Phase two involved a deeper analysis of detailed designs of projects on the basin while the third phase is implementation, which has seen the birth of the commission.

One of the funders of the programme, African Development Bank representative Makasa Bwalya, said they were impressed with progress and would continue supporting the two countries.

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