Raising Mudi Dam’s troubled sanctuary
The closeness of Mudi Dam’s catchment area to a residential neighbourhood could be its worst drawback, ALICK PONJE writes.
Not every tree planted on the 890 hectares that were encroached around Mudi Dam survives beyond the season it gets thrust into the soils of uneven portions of the area.
A few die because of inadequate care while many are uprooted by human beings and livestock.
“The section of the catchment area which is closer to a residential area is the worst affected. It was supposed to be the other way round,” says Blantyre Water Board (BWB) Water Quality and Environmental Officer, Joe Chimeta.
So far, with the help of well-wishers, BWB has seen around 320 hectares being rehabilitated. The covered area would have been larger if every tree brought into the soils of the vast expanse survived.
Chimeta admits that the dam’s output, normally pegged at five percent of the whole amount that BWB supplies to the city, has been severely hit by encroachment.
“Siltation has been high and this means more resources needed for treating the water. Essentially, you cannot expect the dam to produce its maximum potential,” Chimeta says.
He does not want to promise that the rehabilitation of Mudi Dam’s catchment area will be successfully completed any time soon.
Already, efforts by those seeking to see the green expanse once again are being dampened by livestock that sneaks into the reserve and unprincipled individuals who uproot the newly planted seedlings.
“We are trying and the results are there for all to see. We may not get there tomorrow but at least there is progress. We have also employed security personnel to ensure the trees are safe,” Chimeta says.
And BWB’s appeal for benefactors to aid its drive to revive the potential of the dam is getting positive feedback.
On Saturday, Lions Club of Lilongwe planted 1,800 seedlings on a portion of the catchment area. Such steps, Chimeta says, will eventually produce giant leaps on a span that had lush vegetation not long ago, later lost most of it and is now getting dressed again.
“This place is for BWB, but above all, it is for us all. We all need water and its sources must be protected,” he says.
President of Lions Club of Blantyre, Emmanuel Chinunda, hopes as more and more stakeholders come in to plant trees on Mudi Dam’s surrounding sanctuary, the place will eventually reclaim its green glory.
“This is our fifth year to plant trees here and we are proud of the progress despite that there are setbacks here and there. We realise the importance of conserving the environment and in our quest to help in creating a better place for everyone, we engage in such activities every year,” Chinunda says.
He reckons that the decimating of the vegetative cover in various parts of the country is contributing to natural disasters such as floods and droughts.
“Nature is organised and when you disturb it, you bear the consequences. That is why we are always eager to help in rehabilitating natural environments where they have been destroyed,” he says.
For BWB, his message is that the utility body should put in place all measures of ensuring the trees which are being planted are protected.
The impact may not be seen now, Chinunda says, but with time, it will become apparent that putting every tree back in its place matters.
And the idea was buttressed to learners of Makhetha Primary School on the eastern edge of the catchment area who had been invited to be part of the tree-planting exercise.
“We take it as our responsibility to help in protecting this ruined reserve,” said eleven-year-old Sam Jere who—sanctioned by his teachers—has marched to the area together with his fellow learners several times to plant a tree or two.
They have mastered the correct processes of planting trees and are confident of carrying forward the work of reviving Mudi Dam’s troubled sanctuary.
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. Follow him on Twitter @aponje