Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) says it delayed to undertake an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the controversial K400 billion ($500 million) Salima-Lilongwe Water Supply Project because it was waiting for a feasibility study report.
Briefing members of the joint Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Public Affairs, LWB chief executive officer Alfonso Chikuni said the feasibility study report was expected to be out yesterday.
He said only when the EIA has been carried out will people get a picture of what to expect from the project.
Said Chikuni: “People need responses on the EIA. There is nowhere at a certain point where the response will be positive if we do not carry the EIA itself. It can only be carried out after the feasibility study is done and thus the report will be finalised today [Wednesday] and only after that that is when we will carry out the EIA.”
He said it was unfortunate the public was not willing to understand the steps taken to make sure that the issues of EIA will be carried at a required time.
LWB has come under fire for the project to pump water from Lake Malawi in Salima with some sections of society accusing the board of cutting corners in the award of the contract to Khato Civils Proprietary Limited and without undertaking the EIA.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) took the matter to the High Court, asking the court to stop the project for contravening the Environmental Management Act.
The Attorney General’s chambers also asked for a review of some details in the contract in a legal opinion.
The Attorney General’s chambers said it was not against the closed tendering of the project, but the financial component in the deal, including payment modalities.
The Salima-Lilongwe Water Project seeks to pump water to the Capital City over a distance of about 130 kilometres.
In his preamble, chairperson for Agriculture and Irrigation Committee Joseph Chidanti Malunga asked Chikuni to give a progress report on the project despite a stop order from the office of the Attorney General and also on the EIA.
He also asked the board to assure the committee on measures it has taken to ensure that the pumping of the water will not affect the power supply for Lilongwe City as it has been feared that the pumping will need a lot of energy which could affect the city.
Sharing Malunga’s sentiments, Rumphi East member of Parliament, Kamlepo Kalua (People’s Party-PP) asked the board if they had thorough investment plans for the back-up of the power to be used as the project has proved to be an intensive capital project which needs proper planning.
At one point, the members felt the board lacked proper communication channels to convey the right information which has made the board to be portrayed as defending government, an assertion Chikuni dismissed.