Retarded progress marks clean water goals


By Wanangwa Mwachitete:


Every year, on March 22, the world commemorates water day. The day was set aside by the United Nations (UN) to reflect on one of the most crucial resources for the survival of humanity.

This year’s theme for the commemoration is “Leaving No One Behind.”


It coincides with Sustainable Development Goal Number 6 which envisions availability of clean water to everyone by 2030.

The theme raises hope, especially among those who struggle every day to access clean water.

Malawi is endowed with a lot of fresh water in its rivers, streams as well as the spectacular Lake Malawi which is the third largest in Africa.


With all the water in this country, it is hard to accept that it is one of the worst in terms of the percentage of people who have access to clean water.

According to a 2018 USAid report on water, hygiene and sanitation, 80 percent of the population in Malawi has access to an improved source of drinking water, but that leaves over three million people unreached.

Malawi has been coming up with initiatives aimed at alleviating poverty. However, its efforts have mostly ended up not benefitting the targeted party who are the poor.

The country has also been crafting projects and strategies that, if implemented, would result in Malawi being one of the most developed in Southern Africa.

In 2000, Malawi devised the Vision 2020, an initiative tailor-made to enhance socio-economic development. Access to clean water is one area highlighted in the ambitious blueprint.

Today, with less than a year to 2020, the country has not managed to achieve even half of the goals wished for in the vision.

Commenting on failure of Vision 2020 and other strategies, economist Hopkins Kawaye, cited implementation as the biggest challenge.

A pertinent example of failure to utilise clear plans is the Diamphwe Dam Project which is part of the Lilongwe Water Programme aimed at improving clean water supply to residents of Lilongwe. The future of the project is uncertain. Years are passing with no tangible progress.

We now we have the Salima-Lilongwe Water Project, another initiative for Lilongwe Water Board that is facing hurdles.

The project seeks to tap water from Lake Malawi in Salima District to the capital. The project has all along been offering a glimmer of hope in terms of accessibility of clean water to at least 646,750 residents of Lilongwe.

The project is facing challenges ranging from legal to financial.

In most rural areas across the country, people also struggle to access safe water for drinking and other domestic purposes.

They mostly depend on unprotected wells and boreholes as sources of water.

Wells do not provide safe water to the masses as it is not treated despite being sometimes exposed to waste.

On the other hand, boreholes, which provide safer water, are not sustainable due to several reasons.

Many boreholes are constructed without consulting experts such as hydrologists and geologists; consequently, many of them are not built or maintained properly; some boreholes use materials and parts that are not available in Malawi, and; many organisations do not provide maintenance training or materials to locals.

Due to the unsustainability of boreholes, locals usually turn to any available source of water at their disposal such as wells and streams.

Research shows that 42 percent of people living in rural areas use hand-dug wells or surface water contaminated with bacteria.

That speaks volume of a deplorable kind of lifestyle that the majority of rural populations live. With the national population now exceeding 17 million, coupled with lack of implementation of documented initiatives and projects, it is clear that millions are being left behind.

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