An environmentalist has warned Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) against use of burnt bricks in its Connect a Constituency Project saying they promote deforestation.
The project aims at constructing telecentres in all the country’s constituencies to ensure that Information Communication Technology (ICT) services are available even to rural communities.
First phase of the project which started in 2011 targeting 15 constituencies across the country is expected to roll out its services by June this year.
Meanwhile, Macra has already started conducting sensitization meetings for the second phase of the project which targets 20 constituencies.
Speaking Thursday in Mzuzu during a meeting with traditional leaders and officials from district councils, Macra’s Director of Telecommunications Lloyd Momba said the role of communities in the project is to mobilize local resources, namely, sand, quarry stone and burnt bricks.
But Nkhata Bay District Environmental Officer Master Simoni cautioned Macra against encouraging communities to use burnt bricks.
“We want to have these telecentres in 193 constituencies and if people are to mould bricks in all these telecentres, definitely, we are going to have a huge number of trees cut down to burn the bricks,” he said.
“Unfortunately, when people are cutting down trees for a particular [community] project, they also take advantage to cut down trees for their own purposes,” he added.
Deforestation, the permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses, is considered to be a contributing factor to climate change and subsequent global warming.
Simoni, therefore, advised Macra to empower the communities to adopt environmental friendly options in the project.
“There are options like the stabilized soil blocks made from red soils and the cement blocks. There are two types of cement blocks: there is one which uses 50 per cent cement and 50 per cent sand; then there is another type which uses pure cement,” he said.
Simoni further said these options have also been adopted by Local Development Fund (LDF) for its World Bank funded project of constructing school blocks across the country.
“What they [LDF] have done is that they have bought the brick moulding machines for the communities to use. In Nkhata Bay, the machines are currently being used at a school in Thotho and another one at Dwambazi.
“It was a World Bank directive that they don’t want to see a burnt brick on that project,” he said.
Simoni further explained that Malawi is a signatory of several international treaties and protocols on environmental protection. He said some of them fall under World Bank Environmental and Sustainable Development Framework and United Nations Development Programme (Undp).
“In essence, [through the signed treaties], as a country, we have committed ourselves to ensure that much as we are developing our country, we should also pay much attention to the environment,” Simoni said.
In response, Momba said Macra had taken note of the options and would consider them during the implementation of second phase of the project.
“In Phase II, we will look at the options that have been given such as the use of cement blocks, stabilized soil blocks and even any other options that are there,” Momba said.
He explained that in Phase I there were two sites which did not use burnt bricks due to some challenges.
“We used cement blocks and I think it was a learning point because as much as we want to develop, we also want to do it in line with the existing environmental guidelines,” Momba said.