Relocations messed up water project—report

  • Communities asked stakeholders not to approve project
  • Will engage World Bank again—Goodall Gondwe

The Diamphwe Multipurpose Dam Project, which the World Bank pulled out from recently, was rocked by fears of mismanagement in the resettlement plan and lack of due diligence, Nation on Sunday can reveal.

Mwangonde: The whole resettlement plan was a mess

But Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe has said government will engage the World Bank on the Diamphwe project again.

The bank announced recently that it was pulling out of the Lilongwe Water Board owned project amid concerns about the compensation package for the yet-to-be resettled communities, but a report Nation on Sunday has seen goes further to show that community members urged responsible bodies to influence and intervene so that World Bank does not approve the project “until there was a commitment and clear plan of consultation and resettlement that would allow the meaningful involvement of local affected communities.”

The communities , according to a Citizen for Justice (CFJ) report, felt sidelined in the whole process and were not provided with information in the planning of the project’s component that included investments in the Diamphwe Multipurpose Dam on the lower Diamphwe River, a water treatment plant and a transmission line that would pump water from Diamphwe Dam to the treatment plant.

The project, which would have started this year, would have seen the board increasing the storage capacity of Kamuzu Dam by 0.8 cubic metres, somewhat solving the water woes affecting the ever-growing population of the city of Lilongwe.

“Community members expressed concern over the process of determining resettlement entitlements because government officials did not declare the size of each parcel and asset measured and the amount that would be awarded for each of the assets. They also feared that they would lose their land if they were not present during the valuation process and, therefore, some unwillingly participated in the process even though they did not understand the process and the related project activities.

“Community members complained that project developers forced them to declare their land and threatened that the land will not be compensated if one does not take part in the process. One community member stated he was given K400 000 for a one acre piece of land while he needed to have K1.3 million–K1.5 million to buy the same size of piece of land in the area.”

“We are being forced into signing these documents because they said the government would come and get the land for free if we do not sign,” reads in part the report.

Some community members reported that officials would stop them in the course of measuring their land. Others reported that officials who claimed to have more places to carry out the exercise, told them to take a shortcut around their land with a portable GPS and not to get to the edge of the land.

Some affected persons also reported that some officials grouped trees on their land, for example, for example, five trees would be counted as one. Others also reported that the company officials deliberately skipped trees on their land.

Refused to comment: Chikuni

Citizen For Justice (CFJ) executive director Reinford Mwangonde, whose NGO in partnership with the International Accountability Project (IAP) with support of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, worked together to provide project information through the Early Warning System to enable communities to meaningfully engage in the project process, said the body also raised questions on the issue of figures of those to be resettled.

“The whole resettlement plan was a mess. There are questions over the figures that are in the communities and those projected by the ministry,” said Mwangonde in an interview.

According to Lilongwe Water Project Community Outreach Report we have seen, the dam and its associated infrastructure was expected to directly affect 6 015 persons from Dedza and Lilongwe districts.

According to the report, findings of the outreach meetings and survey raised concerns on lack of access to information for affected communities and civil society, lack of meaningful consultation and flaws in the resettlement plan design.

“Seventy-six percent of the survey respondents indicated that they had no information needed to provide informed opinions and ideas about the project plans. They attributed this to lack of knowledge on how to get the information, inability to get project information and to access it from the far places where it is found. The only information the community members had was that given to them by officials during asset assessment when they had to justify their work. In some areas (e.g. Traditional Authority Chilikumwendo), this was not done altogether as reported by the community members.

“Ninety-eight percent of the survey respondents indicated that they were never consulted during the planning phase of the project. They were consulted after plans were finalised and were not given an opportunity to give their views because everything had already been decided upon for them.

“To those who disagreed, they felt that the project proponent had not given them an option for they were told to move from the land and look for another land in the same or surrounding communities with no alternatives provided. Seventy-eight percent indicated that if they have a complaint about the project, they do not know where to file their complaint.”

World Bank representatives were yet to respond to questionnaires on the matter, but Gondwe said he was hopeful the Diampwe matter will be revisited. Speaking during the third prebudget consultations in Mzuzu on Friday, the minister said hope was not lost on the project.

“We will do it the right way. Now the World Bank will discuss with us again on the Diamphwe project and they will give us the money,” he said.

Both LWB board chairperson Kaisi Sadala and CEO Alfonso Chikuni refused to comment on the matter and referred the issue to Principal Secretary for Ministry of Agriculture, Water Development and Irrigation Erica Maganga, who was not immediately available for comment

But Chikuni told our sister paper Weekend Nation that the World Bank, which committed $71 million (about K50 billion) withdrew from the K277 billion project, citing high risk levels in the resettlement plan of the project affected people. (Additional reporting by Martha Chirambo)

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