Malawi Government and a group called Citizens for the Protection of Mulanje Mountain (CPM) met on Thursday in Mulanje to discuss prospects of a Blantyre Water Board (BWB) K17.1 billion project to tap water from Mulanje Mountain for distribution to Chiradzulu, Thyolo and parts of Blantyre.
The meeting, which came in the wake of an ambush of Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda, BWB officials and others who planned to visit the intake point on Mulanje Mountain last Monday, has been described as successful by both parties.
Speaking in an interview on Sunday, President Peter Mutharika’s special adviser on civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Mavuto Bamusi confirmed meeting CPM’s leadership during a dialogue session which was also attended by representatives from the Mulanje District Council and members of the Mulanje Civil Society Coalition Network.
“After discussing the issues, CPM was clear that it is not against the tapping of water from Mulanje Mountain, but that their wish is to see that Mulanje Mountain is re-afforested on the 3 500 hectares bare ground and that they would like to be beneficiaries of water that Blantyre Water Board will be tapping from the mountain,” he said.
Bamusi said the demands were reasonable as government and the President also believe that Mulanje Mountain must be re-afforested.
He said: “The President also feels that the people [in Mulanje] must benefit from that water. So, we reached a mutual agreement that Blantyre Water Board must tap water from the mountain.”
According to him, government also advised CPM not to politicise the project so as to make it a win-win project.
He added that government guaranteed that CPM members should also be incorporated in various district committees, which will be meeting to discuss the future of the water project.
In a telephone interview yesterday, CPM secretary general David Majeweta confirmed that the meeting was successful, but stressed that water will only be tapped from Mulanje Mountain after trees are planted on the mountain’s 3 500 hectares of bare land.
However, he commended government and Bamusi for initiating the dialogue, saying it is what the grouping has been waiting for.
Said Majeweta: “The resolution that government will involve community members in the re-afforestation process is a win-win situation for both government and CPM.”
Last week, Chaponda and BWB officials had to cancel a tour of the Mulanje Likhubula prospective water source after irate CPM members blocked the minister’s vehicle in protest over government’s sidelining the people of Mulanje as beneficiaries of the project and also to demand that trees be planted before the project starts.