These days, it is no longer strange to hear stories about people being supplied with filthy water. Perhaps the lowest point, thus far, was when Lilongwe Water Board et al got punished by the courts after supplying some residents of Area 18 A in the Capital City with water that was contaminated with sewer stuff.
You can imagine the disgust among these residents upon realizing that they had been duped and spoiled by state-run entities in which they had placed their complete trust and now the product they had consumed and utilised in various ways in their day-to-day lives, had become the very health hazard to them overnight. Granted that they may have become overnight millionaires after the court settlement but that does not erase from memory the humiliation and despicable condition they were subjected to through the water taps in their homes. The rest, as they say, is history.
Lately, we have heard of other water boards coming into the picture with their own ‘near messes’. I have in mind Nkhotakota and Zomba residents who were up in arms not so long ago, accusing their water suppliers of suspected foul play. Not much has come out of it though, unless I missed something.
Not wanting to be outdone, Blantyre Water Board was this week forced to engage the ‘fire-fighting’ mode after residents of the commercial city raised eyebrows over the quality of water that they were being supplied with. The board admitted in a statement that it had been receiving complaints regarding the water odour and colouration since February 18, 2022 and that its water quality team immediately set out to investigate the cause and ensure total safety of the water it supplies.
What, however, caught my attention was this particular paragraph:
“Blantyre Water Board has therefore intensified water treatment, and has shut down Mudi Treatment Plant until a long term solution is found for the water at Mudi dam. We are also flushing out water in tanks that have been affected to ensure that clear water only is distributed”
Much as BWB insists that its standards have not been compromised at all, the above statement would still leave a consumer with more questions than answers; could the action taken therein be just as a precaution or there is more than meets the eye? We will give them the benefit of doubt and good luck with whatever conclusions you draw as a customer.
I just brought out the above scenarios for everyone to begin to appreciate just how dysfunctional the public entities tasked with provision of social services to the people have become. Elsewhere, the basic necessities of life are treated with utmost care. Food, water, clothing and shelter are a must if humans are to survive and that is the whole reason those tasked with providing such services make it a point that the end product which they are giving to the consumer is safe and of acceptable standards. But that, lately, appears to be a tall order. Gone are the days when parastatals such as the water boards, Malawi Housing Corporation Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation, would be at the beckon and call of the consumer and most importantly, providing them with services of high level standards. Their problems, some man-made, are just too huge that it would not be easy to turn their fortunes around overnight.
But then perhaps that is just one side of the coin. Once you flip it, you would realise that most of the systems and equipment that these so-called parastatals are using is way outdated. We certainly must also lay bare the fact that as a country, we have not been making investments to do with infrastructure for our water supply systems, just as has been the case for a long time with the electricity sector. Not long ago, BWB came out in public with a begging bowl, asking Capital Hill to come to its aid with billions of Kwacha but many of us just laughed it off as another excuse by the company to abuse resources.
We also read a notice the other day by Lilongwe Water Board alerting its clientele that due to the continuous heavy rains which the capital city received recently, its water treatment plant had been affected hence an interruption in water provision.
That, however, in no way, justifies giving people water with ‘strange’ odour and ‘funny’ colouration, as was experienced in Blantyre. A solution must be found to ensure that these companies navigate out of these ‘troubled’ waters.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).