What’s missing in campaign messages?

Hon. Folks, having uninterrupted electricity from days before Christmas feels good.

I wonder who do we thank for the respite–Escom? Egenco? APM and Government? Whoever it is, please accept my heartfelt gratitude.

Having power all day everyday should have been the norm in this 21st Century but in Malawi, the norm has been to pay more tariffs for less hours of ‘full light’.

Interestingly, we’ve Escom, Egenco,  Aggreko, the parent ministry and above all, APM himself, all busy, managing the circus that has changed our lifestyles and destroyed many small businesses.

We’ve  experimented with diesel-powered generators and seen for ourselves that the costs are way beyond our reach. We can’t go nuclear and coal-powered electricity as what we’re banking on is already being frowned upon by the international community worried about its contribution to global warming.

I bet before we pay back to China the huge loan for the coal-powered electricity project, we shall be subjected to enormous global pressure to abandon coal-powered electricity just as right now we’re under pressure to ditch  tobacco-growing the mainstay of our economy. We don’t call the shots, the world tells us what to do despite our claim to being an independent sovereign state.

Which is why, I believe, we collectively need to do a lot more to conserve the environment and protect our lakes, rivers, mountains and forests—our own inheritance—from destructive selves. Our survival and that of our children depends on it.

Not long ago Chikangawa was a  kilometres-long thicket of pine trees touted as the largest man-made forest in Africa. Now all there’s left is a bald-head. Mulanje Mountain was the only home in the world for the Mulanje cedar but now what remains are cedar seedlings in polythene tubes. Greed and corruption led to a total harvest of all mature cedars, some exported to as far away as China and the proceeds stashed in the dirty pockets of politically connected crooks.

Zomba Mountain and all mountains in Blantyre—Ndirande, Michiru, Soche and Bangwe—are razor-shaved to the core of all trees. The same armyworm destruction of trees characterizes the catchment areas of the Shire River, the very source of the hydro-electric power we so desperately need.

We’ve seen foreign conservationists going miles in ensuring that our national parks are replenished of endangered animal species, yet government is doing very little, if any, to save the chambo, the delicacy that God graciously granted to us and our children, from extinction.

Where I come from, Mulanje West, I’ve seen a whole Thuchila River, which used to run the whole year round, graced on its banks with natural trees, different varieties of grass and shrubs completely destroyed.

What used to be the river bed has now been turned into garden plots where people are growing maize, cabbages and some varieties of tobacco used mostly for snuff. The natural fruit varieties, the birds, the fish are all gone.

Today, we only know that Thuchila is a river in the rainy season when floods run furiously down its course, destroying houses, schools, churches, everything on its way. People have run away from what for many years used to be their homes built along the mighty Thuchila and relocated to parched, arid land far away from the river.

Yet, people continue to cut down trees, including fruit trees, even at graveyards as our population, estimated at 19.4 million, continues to grow at 2.9 percent annually. I wonder what life would be in 2050 when the population is projected to grow to 41.7 million.

I read some academic papers about there being good policies and strategies for conserving forests. What I don’t see is the political will to ensure that our population growth rate is significantly reduced and that we plant more trees than we use in a year.

Kamuzu Banda used to teach us to plant three for every tree cut down. What does APM say? How about Lazarus Chakwera, Saulos Chilima, Atupele Muluzi and Joyce Banda. Do they bother to mention afforestation and soil conservation strategies in their grandiose promises of development?

As we head towards 2019, the year of elections, I beseech you folks, to vote for a candidate who articulates a clear strategy that balances our interest to grow the economy and develop our country with the greater interest to pass on to the next generation a better than the one we inherited from those that were there before us.

Happy, prosperous New Year, folks! n

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