Some residents of Blantyre City have taken to court the Blantyre City Council, Malawi Environmental Protection Authority (Mepa) and 18 other firms over pollution in Mudi River.
Court documents indicate that the sued firms are Optichem Limited, Capital Oil Refinery Industries, Malawi Distilleries Limited, Chibuku Products Limited, Candlex Limited, Castel Malawi Limited, Camy Soap and Oil Manufacturers Limited and Siku Transport Limited.
The others are Suncrest Creameries Limited, Anchor Industries, Safintra Malawi Limited, Lafarge Cement, Pharmanova Company Limited, Petroda Malawi Limited, Central East African Railways (Cear), National Bus Company, Manica Malawi Limited and Knitwear Limited.
The documents show that Michael Chikwanje and 199 others initiated the process as residents as well as owners and occupiers of land along the Mudi River catchment area and reside in Kampala, Manyowe, Maliro, Mwandambe, Manyenje, Chilundika and surrounding villages in traditional authorities (T/A) Kuntaja and Somba in Blantyre District.
The summons for civil cause number 14 of 202 state that while the residents use their pieces of land for occupation, they rely on Mudi River as an alternative source of water for carrying out farming and other economic activities.
In the summons, the residents claim that the 18 at Makata Industrial Area have allegedly been releasing toxic chemicals of their by-products into the river without due regard to safety and welfare of people along the river banks.
The residents further claim that the firms have been failing to take sufficient and considerable measures to avoid releasing the alleged toxic chemicals and even treat or decontaminate them as per the Environmental Management Act and city by-laws.
The Environment Management Act of 2017 requires all industrial firms to purify liquid waste and remove all hazardous chemicals before discharging waste water into natural waterways.
On the part of BCC, the residents claim that before or around 2014, the council’s sewer system at Makata Industrial Area blocked and started spilling into Mudi River and has since been neglected for repairs and maintenance.
Reads the summons in part: “The claimants further plead that the council together with the industries are in breach of their statutory duties provided under the Environmental Management Act.”
Besides, the residents further claim that Mepa is negligent in its statutory duties by failing to carry out their duties provided under the Environment Management Act.
The residents are, therefore, demanding damages for nuisance, interruption with peaceful use and occupation of their land, damages for trespass and damages for loss of earnings.
In an interview on Saturday, lawyer representing the residents Wellington Kazembe said the case is scheduled to go for mediation and will be heard by High Court judge Jack N’riva.
However, Kazembe said the court is yet to set a date for the mediation.
While one of the defence lawyers Wesley Mwafulirwa said the defence was filed and were waiting for the claimants to pursue their case.
In recent years, Mudi River’s polluted state has been the centre of attention with various clean-up futile interventions.