After weeks of disagreements, Blantyre Water Board (BWB) has finally rolled out the much-awaited K18 billion Likhubula Water Supply System project to tap water from Mulanje Mountain to Blantyre city and surrounding districts.
The project has failed twice to take off due to alleged sabotage by some community members operating under Citizens for the Protection of Mulanje Mountain (CPM).
CPM members have been threatening to obstruct the project until BWB honours an agreement to plant trees on selected areas on the mountain.
However, The Nation’s visit to the site on Wednesday showed some construction works underway by India-based contractor SMC Infrastructure Private Limited at Nguludi in Chiradzulo.
At Mulanje Mountain, planting of pine trees is also in progress in Likhubula Forest to add on the 10 000 which the water utility body already planted during the previous rainy season.
However, about 70 000 special pine seedlings are expected to be planted starting next month on Chambe Basin which is the source of Likhubula River and the bone of contention between BWB and CPM members.
Project team leader Stainley Bakolo said in an interview they were in the mobilisation stage where the contractor was still assembling equipment and other materials.
“Currently we are putting up structures for the contractor’s offices and BWB project management team. This will take us about a month before we embark on major construction works,” he said.
According to Bakolo, the project is within schedule and expected to end by April 30 2019 with BWB expecting to produce an additional 20 million litres of water per day for its customers.
BWB procured a 35-hectare piece of land at Nguludi along the Robert Mugabe Highway to assemble the centre point of the water supply system that will include a conventional water treatment plant, offices, a pumping station for the treated water and staff houses.
From Nguludi the treated water will be pumped to Mpingwe Hill storage tank from where it will be supplied to consumers.
In separate interviews, Mulanje District Council chairperson Charles Kapata and Senior Chief Nkanda said the project had their full support after BWB agreed to change the water tapping point from upper to lower Likhubula River.
The project is financed through a $23.5 million (about K18 billion) loan from Exim Bank of India.