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Reaping bitter fruits of environmental degradation

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This world can be so cruel! Imagine in a blink of an eye, Benson Majawa lost everything.His socio-economic status changed from a landlord to a tenant.
Majawa’s family was cruelly lost their house and are now seeking refuge in temporary shelters erected for families displaced by the December 17 2017 flooding in Lilongwe Majawa’s family are not the only victims of flash floods.
The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) estimates that over 360 households were affected by the floods in areas 21 (Kaliyeka), 22, 23, 24, 36 and Mchesi.
Property such as houses and motor vehicles suffered serious damage while clothes, foodstuffs and kitchen utensils were swept away.
Similar floods are said to have occurred in the same areas in 2012 but the magnitude of the damage was minimal as compared to this time around.
The extreme weather conditions in Lilongwe came barely a few days after another one that wreaked havoc at Phwezi in Rumphi.
Over 100 households lost their property and Dodma is still calculating the value of the damage.
Dodma Public Relations Officer, Chipiliro Khamula said recently six people died after being washed away by flood waters along the Mchesi Stream in Lilongwe.
Rute Godfrey of Ntchenyera Village in Traditional Authority Mbenje in Nsanje laments that every year rains come with flash floods that displace their families.
“On top of that, our children are forced to stay away from school where there are floods as classrooms become our homes,” Godfrey says.
Suddenly, Malawi is becoming a host to various natural disasters such as floods, hailstorms, droughts and dry spells.
These disasters have negatively impacted national development led to loss of life.
From January 2015 to December 2017, floods and hailstorms have caused damage to valuable property such as houses, livestock and crops effectively reducing the victims to beggars of everything, including food and accommodation.
Environmentalists believe majority of the victims are simply reaping the bitter fruits of the degradation they caused to the environment.
Environmental degradation is the aftermath of the impact of human activities as well as natural causes during which the natural environment is compromised in some way, biological diversity is minified and the health of the environment deteriorates drastically.
Over the years, the socio-economic activities of humankind have disrupted the ecosystem and it keeps getting worse by the day.
And as human population increases daily, the habitat is altered and destroyed. There is a continuous impact on natural recourses as they get compromised and depleted.
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining spokesperson Sangwani Phiri says the magnitude, frequency and impact of disasters have been increasing over the years due to climate change, population growth and environmental degradation.
Phiri notes that the disasters have caused an economic damage whose resilience or ability to recover will depend on the amount of educational, technical as well as financial empowerment government and the civil society can invest in locals.
“Government has been advising people to conserve natural resources, desist from wanton cutting down of trees and charcoal production. We also urge and promote tree-planting exercises to mitigate the effects of environmental degradation,” he explains.
Catholic Development Commission in Malawi National Director Carsterns Mulume says a recent project they are implementing in Nsanje with funding from Oxfam Malawi taught them that the best approach to empower disaster-prone communities is to let them develop their own integrated early warning systems, which they can easily follow in reducing danger.
He adds that such methodologies helped in enhancing and promoting predictable transfers of the most vulnerable to safer places before disaster hits.
“We learned that traditional and ancestral methodologies of detecting hazards are effective in mitigating disasters. Traditional and ancestral methodologies proved more effective in strengthening disaster risk management coordination mechanisms than those developed elsewhere without the involvement of the targeted communities,” Mulume stresses.
And speaking after visiting flood victims in Lilongwe, Malawi Congress Party President Lazarus Chakwera emphasised the need for early preparations in the fight and management of disasters.
Chakwera said early preparations can help in saving the financial resources government and non-governmental organisations spend to provide for the families affected by various forms of disasters.

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