One of the leading Malawian environmental analysts has asked traditional leaders along the shores of Lake Malawi to reject any proposal by the authorities to drill oil in Lake Malawi.
Speaking in an in interview after meeting traditional leaders in Nkhata Bay and Salima, environmentalist Godfrey Mfiti said there has been no successful oil drilling in a fresh water lake that has gone without any spillage.
“Lake Malawi is the most biodiversity fresh water in the world. It boasts over 1000 species of cichlids type of fish only endemic to Malawi.
“The Lake Malawi has only one outlet in the south the Shire River as such it has low flushing power. This verifies that any oil spillage in Lake Malawi would take years for the Lake to clean naturally,” said Mfiti who heads a local NGO called Institute of Sustainable Development (ISD).
Government in November 2014, through the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining suspended oil and gas exploration licenses to examine the procedures that led to the award of the licenses and review revenue sharing arrangements, the end game has never been clear.
Mfiti said rejecting oil exploration could also help save Blantyre City whose main source of water is from Lake Malawi’s outlet, Shire River.
“The government of Malawi must consult local people and civic educate them on the importance of conserving the outstanding universal values of the Lake Malawi. Malawi’s economy is so much dependent on informal business and employment. Most of the country’s population does not go for 8-5 routine work of formal employment registered by government.
“Our economy thrives on small scale businesses by local people. In the tourist attractive areas the tourism business remains at low standards. The curios and artistic paint carvings are not formally unionized. The business is not regulated.
There are no structured shops in areas such as Kande in Nkhata Bay. The country might be losing millions of forex since the export market for curios and artistic paint carvings is not regulated properly,” said Mfiti.
He noted that the entire Lake Malawi supports the livelihoods of over 2million people along the lakeshore, adding that drilling oil in Lake Malawi will render many jobless.
“There are a number of fishing communities along the lakeshore whose life is dependent on the presence of fish in the Lake.
Government of Malawi’s sustainable development plans must include assisting these fishing villages in value addition and postharvest handling of capture fisheries,” said Mfiti.