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Wreck nature and be visited by floods

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Grace Potalinga of East Bank in Nsanje has over the years been a worried woman. She blames it on weather, to be precise, rains.

“Each year has been traumatic, but the rainy season of 2014/15 has been the worst. No adjective can ably describe what we went through, and that is the more reason why I hate people who continue to cut trees up land, in those hills up there,” says the married mother of three.

The resident of Msitu Village, Traditional Authority Mlolo in the district is disillusioned that despite working hard in the fields – as a subsistence farmer, she and her family have not reaped the sweat of their toil.

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Instead, floods from the Monika stream – an annual river that meanders around her village -eventually preying on people’s potential harvest and even dear life itself – goes away with everything.

“Last year, my family and I, just like many other people here, worked hard in our fields as well as dimba land. We grew maize, sweet potatoes, vegetables and other crops, but hey, the waters of the Monika stream went with everything down to the Ruo and Shire rivers,” she laments.

As if that was not enough, she adds: “While we were sleeping at night, the water washed away many houses, sweeping our basic possessions, leaving us not only poor but empty bellied for all our food, be it in storage or in the gardens, went with the waters.”

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That is the sad trend of most parts of the East Bank and other areas of the Lower Shire. The rains come with floods and the floods rob people their food and possessions; and in January, multitudes of lives also went away with the waters.

But while many blame people of the low lying areas of the Lower Shire of clinging to stay near rivers to farm on the alluvial soils, the locals blame it on those staying in the uplands.

“The folks that stay uphill, in those hills that are actually in Thyolo district, don’t care for our welfare. They have cut all trees and even growing crops where the trees were; this has had a bad effect on us in the lower areas as now water run from up him and make so many streams and rivers whose water cause havoc to us by way of floods,” says one John Piriminta, who claims to have been lucky to travel in many areas of the Lower Shire to know the magnitude of the problem.

He agrees with Potalinga in a separate interview that in the past, when trees were in their plentiful, the flooding was not as bad.

“While some can tell you they take joy of the aftermath of the floods in that we get alluvial soils from the hills washed to us by the overflowing waters which makes us not spend on fertilizers; still the hell we go through loss of lives, property and crops, is horrible,” he

says, stressing the wanton cutting of trees has resulted in change of the rain patterns and the environment.

The wreck of the waters and floods are visible by way of gullies that are almost everywhere, signifying loss of top soil in other areas, hence affecting once rich fertile status of these areas.

“It is not only fertility of the soil we have lost, but as I said, the course of the river cannot be predicted because of the flooding. We are not always sure whether where we have our houses or gardens would not be a river way next year, all these because people have been careless upland,” says Tiria Dazimata, a villager and subsistence farmer from Chikunkhu Village, Traditional Authority Tengani, on the opposite side of the Shire River – the West Bank, in the same Nsanje district.

Like in the East Bank, the people face the same problems – flooding as a result of man’s wrecking of the environment. Like in the East Bank, the West Bank of the Shire also has been through all sorts of environmental threats, wanton cutting of trees up hill and of late, burning of charcoal.

As humans butcher the environment upland, during rains water floods downhill and preys with whatever it finds on the way towards the Ruo or Shire rivers.

Recently, Nsanje District Forest Officer, who is also the Council’s Acting Director of Planning and Development, Kennedy Adamson, and Senior Chief Malemia, also complained that some people were illegally cutting down trees in a ‘once upon a time’ best catchment area for the Shire River in Nsanje, the Matandwe Forest Reserve.

“It is very true that the beauty that was Matandwe Forest Reserve is under threat, I can confirm that, we are all scared.

The problem has reached alarming levels, it is a threat to Nsanje,” he said, saying the forest under threat helps protect many areas around Nsanje Boma

from over flooding, which could not be the case presently.

He and the senior chief also say the Forest under threat acted like a good catalyst for rains, hence abusing it could have a far reaching effect on the climate.

The cases show how acute the environmental threat has a bearing on human life, agriculture and of course the climate in the areas of the Lower Shire.

“Cases are plenty that shows suffering by way offloads here in Nsanje.

Our children find it difficult to go to school during rainy seasons because of floods; it is time we go for long term solutions and not play around with nature…. of course, government should also engage us fully on how we can control some of these things,” says Winston Ronney, a peasant of Chikunkhu village.

And, the Shire and Ruo rivers continue to get pregnant with massive water levels from streams that spring about due to massive abuse of the environment up the hills and uplands.

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