The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has asked the Department of Environmental Affairs to furnish it with a report of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted on the project to tap water from Lake Malawi in line with the laws.
In a letter addressed to the director of Environmental Affairs Taonga Mbale dated March 21 2017, MLS has cited the Environmental Management Act as the guiding law which should be followed in the project.
This letter follows an earlier concern raised by Kenneth Wiyo, an associate professor at Bunda College of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), who faulted the absence of a hydrographic study and EIA.
He raised questions on the power supply needed to pump water from the lake.
Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) is implementing the project to pump water from Lake Malawi to Lilongwe City through a pipe line stretching over 130 kilometres from the lakeshore district of Salima.
Citing Section 24 of the Act, MLS indicates that the law requires that an EIA report be produced for projects of that nature.
The society has since demanded a copy of the EIA within seven working days.
In the letter, MLS president Khumbo Soko wrote that under Section 25 of the Act, it is the obligation of the director of Environmental Affairs to require developers of projects specified to submit an environmental impact assessment report.
According to MLS, the project falls under the Environmental (Specifications of Projects Requiring Environmental Impact Assessment) Notice which states that all projects listed and specified in the schedule to the notice must, by law, not be implemented unless an environmental impact assessment has been carried out and a report issued and lodged with the director.
Writes Soko: “If the provisions of the Act have so far not been complied with, it will be illegal to proceed to the implementation stage of this Project.”
The society has further asked that the requirement of an EIA are satisfied before the project’s implementation begins.
Under Section 25 (3) of the Act, the report is supposed to be open for public inspection.
“If, however, a report was compiled and lodged with your office, we would kindly request that we be provided with a copy for our own inspection,” demands MLS.
While Mbale could not be reached on her phone, chief director in the Department of Environmental Affairs Yanira Ntumpanyama said EIAs were public documents which could be assessed at the department.
The project is under fire from several fronts and questions have been raised at how Khato Civils Ltd and Zambezi Pty Ltd was contracted to carry it out.
The government guaranteed a $500 million loan to LWB to tap water from Lake Malawi. n