President Peter Mutharika yesterday made his position known on the $453 million Salima-Lilongwe Water Supply Project when he hit at development partners for interfering in its implementation.
But the President did not name the development partners allegedly pushing for the halting of the project whose setbacks have included lack of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and feasibility study before the contract was awarded to Khato Civils Limited.
His remarks come hot on the heels of a stance of a section of civil society members who advised the development partners not to interfere in the project because Malawi was a sovereign nation.
Speaking at Biwi Triangle in Lilongwe on arrival from Blantyre yesterday, Mutharika said the Salima-Lilongwe Water Supply Project, which seeks to pump water from Lake Malawi to the capital city, was a government initiative to ensure that the people of Lilongwe have access to water supply.
He said: “I urge the civil society and development partners not to sabotage this project. Let me tell them, you are here not to run this country. This country is a sovereign nation. The water project will continue and within four or five years it will be completed. There is no other choice on the water crisis.”
The project has brought divisions among civil society activists such that Billy Mayaya, the Reverend Macdonald Sembereka and Rodgers Newa have alleged that the development partners were condemning the contract awarding process and other alleged flouted procedures related to the project because they were not happy that they had no control over the project.
In response to the trio’s assertions, the Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) said the development partners were merely demanding transparency and accountability.
In April this year, Malawi Law Society (MLS) successfully sought a court order compelling the Department of Environmental Affairs to produce details of the contract on the water project as well as an EIA report.
This compelled Lilongwe Water Board to advertise for a firm to carry out a feasibility study which is ready.
The order also compels the Department of Environmental Affairs to furnish the law society with details of the contract between government and Khato Civils.
According to court documents MLS questions the legality of some decisions made by authorities concerned with the implementation of the project.
MLS feels the authorities neglected their duties by moving forward with the decision in the absence of an environmental impact assessment.