Members of Parliament on Thursday expressed anger over the action of three civil society organisations (CSOs) who have obtained an injunction against Southern Region Water Board (SRWB) to halt implementation of a water project in Mangochi District.
Speaking in the House, Mangochi Monkey Bay Constituency legislator Ralph Jooma (DPP) asked the Minister of Water and Sanitation Abida Mia for clarification on what her ministry will do to expedite the project.
The project, which is worth $16.4 (approximately K13.3 billion) and was duly approved by Parliament, is on hold after the CSOs got a court injunction on Wednesday, opposing its current design.
The CSOs, Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy, National Youth Network on Climate Change and Movement for Environmental Action are also demanding a review of the project as it is located in a heritage site.
SRWB is implementing the project at Nkhudzi Hill inside Lake Malawi National Park, a protected area and a World Heritage Site which the organisations argue it poses danger to the environment.
According to Jooma, the injunction means that people in Mangochi are being denied their right to access potable water.
He said: “This water project is going to provide piped water to people from Mtakataka side in a village called Namgoma all the way to the Bishop’s House. So, all the villages along the Lake Shore will be provided with safe water.”
“Another good thing is that this project will also help lodges and hotels that use water direct from Lake Malawi, which is not treated and is hazardous for guests.”
Jooma said the NGOs’ reason for obtaining the injunction does not hold water, because there is nothing interesting for tourists to see in the area and that only seven trees will be cut during the project implementation.
Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda said the House cannot continue to debate on the issue as it is still in court.
However, Banda said by not debating the matter, it does not mean the issue is not important as both sides of the House want the water project to be finalised as soon as possible.
“We are worried with the delay of the project, but we have to respect the courts. We have expressed our anger, but respect for the court is paramount,” he said.
In her response, Mia said the ministry will be meeting with all the concerned parties on the matter to map the way forward.
In 2016, the National Assembly authorised government to take a loan from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development for the extension of the Mangochi Potable Water Supply Project that will supply water to over 90 000 households