The Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resources has uncovered an illegal dumping operation of sewage waste and other hazardous materials into the Shire River by lodges operating along the country’s longest river.
Chairperson of the committee Welani Chilenga said that some of the lodges operating in the town council are discharging sewage into the river, 20 metres away from Southern Region Water Board pumps.
The parliamentary committee has since asked the Department of Environment to investigate the illegal operations along the Shire River and find out how severely compromised the water is.
The Shire River is Malawi’s lifeline but major problems of pollution have a knock-on effect that threatens the livelihoods of everyone that relies on the river.
Public Relations Officer for Environment and Climate Change Management in the Ministry of Natural Resources Sangwani Phiri Tuesday confirmed that the department is conducting thorough investigations.
Phiri said the department had already sent environmental inspectors to collect water samples for testing.
“We have to wait for the results from the sample that our inspectors took yesterday [Monday]. But as of now, it is not possible to say whether that is the truth or not. We will report based on what the test will bring out,” he said
The Daily Times visit to some lodges along the river and surrounding areas in Liwonde found that many people are desperate for clean and safe water.
Chairperson for Liwonde Concerned Citizens, Chipiliro Phiri, said residents from the districts have been using and drinking unsafe water which endangers many lives, especially children vulnerable to waterborne diseases.
“It’s high time we have the water tasted. What is perpetuating the situation is the fact that we rarely have running water. Most residents are using water from boreholes or the river,” he said.
According to Phiri, many residents are disturbed with reports that lodges may be discharging sewage waste into the river.
Another Liwonde resident, Allan Waison, said the area has serious water and sanitation problems.
According to some of the residents, due to the scarcity of running water, they resolve to drinking and using water from unprotected sources including direct usage of water from the Shire River.
The Daily Times’ visit to the two lodges on Monday also encountered two other teams (Environmental Affairs Department and Malawi Environmental Health) that are also investigating the same issue. The teams took the managers of the two lodges to task over discharging waste into the Shire River.
They collected water samples and questioned each and every septic tank that is around their premises.
Amos Mandolo, Head Plumber for Hippo Lodge, claimed that the sewage ends into one silting septic tank which they pump out and dispose of at a dump site at least three times a week. But we observed that the lodges still discharge kitchen and hand-washing water into the river. Soap and oils also contain toxic materials that contaminate water.
Spokesperson for Machinga District Health Office, Clifton Ngozo, however, downplayed reports of high waterborne diseases around Liwonde area.
“Much as we have waterborne diseases from this area, it has never reached alarming levels. In Machinga, we usually have problems with the area around Lake Chilwa not this side,” he said.
Efforts to speak to Southern Region Water Board proved futile as they had not yet responded to our questionnaire as we went to press.
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