By Vincent Khonje:
In the social networking era, it is easy for people to raise concerns about how institutions are delivering their services.
To reach out to clients and customers, companies and organisations have also embraced social media so that grievances are looked into quickly.
Central Region Water Board (CRWB) is one such institution and is using social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp to interact with its customers.
That this initiative is one great idea is a topic for another day; the focus now is what is being posted on the CRWB Customers WhatsApp forum in Kasungu.
A larger percentage of the posts are complaints about lack of running water in most areas.
“No water here for 10 days!” a post by one member screams.
Another member responds: “Those of you, who are saying you have no water for 10 days, please, keep quiet. We have stayed for three months; you are better off.”
Other customers equally post their complaints one after the other, forming a long thread of conversation.
It takes a courageous CRWB official to respond to the customers and calm them down.
“We are working on it. You will have water very soon,” pops out a message from a CRWB official.
However, the reality is that there is more on the ground than meets the eye.
The source of raw water for Kasungu Water Supply Scheme is Chitete and Nguluyanawambe dams but the water is not enough.
CRWB Kasungu Zone Manager, Moses Kalenga, says the current water production is 4,000 cubic metres per day against the required 7000 cubic metres.
He states if the board had the capacity to produce the required 7,000 cubic meters a day to meet the demand, the dams would not be enough.
“We would have even depleted all the water from the dams,” Kalenga says.
Water supply problems have come about due to problems like ever-increasing demand for piped water due to population growth and erratic rains as a result of climate change.
It is not a secret that CRWB is facing huge challenges to supply adequate water in most of its supply areas such as Kasungu, which has 5,233 customers.
The available dams have been encroached into and are in the middle of settlement areas, a thing which has brought a lot of siltation.
Additionally, the dams are not necessarily on streams. Therefore, they are not even able to capture enough water.
There is massive irrigation farming taking place around Nguluyanawambe Dam.
CRWB Director of Technical Services, John Makwenda, says the board has challenges to manage the water reservoir because it is the only water source supporting communities’ livelihoods with some growing vegetables and others fishing.
“We have challenges in managing this water source. It is the only place around with water; so everyone flocks here,” Makwenda says.
The reality is that, even with the two dams, the water is not enough.
With effects of climate change, there are fears of the dams drying up, as has happened to Mpira Dam in Balaka.
A 2001 study by NIRAS-Norconsult JV recommended promotion of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) by building multi-purpose dams for Kasungu, Mponela, Mwanza and Chiradzulu towns.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development hired a consultant called Smec in 2014 to conduct a feasibility study and preliminary designs for a multi-purpose dam for Kasungu Town.
Smec proposed a multipurpose dam on Dwangwa River, 16 kilometres north of Kasungu Town.
The reservoir will be approximately 25 metres deep and cover a surface area of 31.2 square kilometres.
This will, by far, be the biggest dam in Malawi if the plans are implemented.
The most important thing is that, despite solving current water supply problems, the proposed dam will come with other benefits.
“It is a multipurpose project and addresses the multisectoral water requirements, including drinking, industrial and institutional water demand, irrigation development, hydropower generation and fisheries development,” Makwenda says.
He adds that the dam will improve the socio-economic development of Kasungu Town and surrounding areas.
“Kasungu will no longer be the same. The good part is that Malawi Government has shown willingness to support such projects considering the drying up of water reservoirs elsewhere,” he says.
Director of Water Supply in the Ministry of Agriculture, Emma Mbalame, rues the drying up of dams in the country and calls on water boards to move with demands.
“Dams can dry up. It has happened in Balaka and it can happen in Kasungu. As stakeholders, let us all give necessary support to the water board. Let me also assure people that any support that comes forward, this project will be given priority,” Mbalame says.
The news of a new dam in Kasungu has excited Kasungu District Council Director of Planning and Development, Blessings Nkhoma.
He, however, has a word of caution.
“As a council, we are ready but we would rather be involved than just being consulted. From the district down to all local structures, let the people be part of the process,” Nkhoma says.
Meanwhile, government has allocated some funds in the 2018/2019 national budget for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (Esia).
The actual construction is expected after the Esia and Resettlement Action Plan (Rap) subject to availability of a financier for the project which will need an estimated $235,295 069 (approximately K170 billion).
As water woes continue in Kasungu, residents may find solace and remain hopeful that the biggest water reservoir in the country is coming their way to offer a lasting solution.—Mana