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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hope at last, donors pump K40 billion into water project
by Ephraim Munthali, 03 May 2007 - 03:32:44
There is hope at last for the poor in populous townships such as Ndirande in Blantyre and Chinsapo in Lilongwe. Even the business community, particularly the agricultural produce dependent manufacturing sector, may soon heave a sigh of relief.
At long last, one of the biggest impediments to the growth and development of businesses in the country and the source of misery to most families could be on a non-stop course into the dustbins of history.
The Nation has established that the World Bank and the European Investment Bank have heard the cries of Malawians whose taps or containers have on several occasions remained dry for weeks—no water to drink, bath or for any household or industrial use.
The two financiers are geared to pump in US$281 million (K39.3 billion) to improve the water supply situation in Malawi, Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe has confirmed.
“Yes, I can confirm that because I am at the centre of it. Our development partners plan to pump in US$281 million to improve the poor water supply in our major cities and selected districts,” said Gondwe in an interview on Tuesday.
He added: “We want to rehabilitate and expand the water supply system in Lilongwe and Blantyre so that it is up and running again. The problem is that although the population has increased, water supply has almost remained the same.”
The minister said experts are going around establishing the problems dogging the country’s water system and search for other sources of the life saving liquid.
Asked when the Malawi Government expects to sign the agreement with the multilateral bodies, Gondwe said he cannot say with certainty since there is still work to be done.
Sources confided in Business Review that a team of experts jetted into the country about two weeks ago to consult government officials and carry out some preparatory work ahead of implementation planned to start in the next six months.
Chief among the project’s objectives is to clean up the water distribution system to ensure that middle or high income earners, who stay in townships initially designated for low income people, are not being subsidised.
Take Manja in Blantyre or Area 36 in Lilongwe, for example. On paper, these townships are supposed to accommodate the poor city dwellers to whom, experts say, government has an obligation to subsidise their water bills.
However, middle and high income earners bought off land from the so-called low income earners and built large houses which consume large volumes of water.
Most of the poor who used to reside in these townships evicted themselves because the places had become too advanced for their humble incomes.
Government, however, still subsidises water supply to these areas since on paper it is the poor who live there. This makes cost recovery difficult.
“Before these rich people came here, water supply was not a problem probably because even the distribution at that time was meant for low water users. But once these people with bath tabs and flash toilets came, we started experiencing low water pressure.
“I now live some kilometres away from here [Area 36] having moved after selling my plot to a rich man who has built a big house, with a big yard and a big garden,” one man, who did not want to be named, told Business Review at Kandikole Market in Lilongwe’s Area 36.
Private sector representative, the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira said “this development means a lot to the private sector and the economy in general.”
“Good infrastructure is critical for the promotion of private sector growth. We have always been looking forward to a day when water supply would be reliable,” said Kaferapanjira.
He said businesses have spent a lot of money buying water tanks to store water, thereby increasing production costs for local companies already grappling with exorbitant transportation and credit costs.
The chamber boss said most of Malawi ’s industries process agricultural products and, therefore, need a lot of water.
During pre-budget consultations in Lilongwe, Gondwe said government would also use savings from debt relief to improve water and sanitation in areas like Chilinde in Lilongwe and Ndirande in Blantyre

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