Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule Phiri has said Malawi may lose funding from the World Bank if his ministry and that of Local Government and Rural Development do not agree on who should manage sewer systems.
In August 2017, the country had a rude awakening when residents of Area 18A in Lilongwe complained of tap water that was contaminated with faecal matter from sewers.
It is against this background that the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change summoned all water boards in the country, the Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC), city councils and ministries of Health and Agriculture to a roundtable at Parliament in the same year to find a solution to the management of sewer systems.
It was agreed at that meeting that the country uses the 1995 Malawi Water Works Act which gives power to water boards to manage sewer systems.
But two years down the line, the sewer system has not been rehabilitated.
When officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, led by Phiri, appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation, Natural Resources and Climate Change yesterday, they told the committee that they have hit a snag in managing the situation and are concerned that the World Bank might not fund them.
Said Phiri: “The Water Works Act implementation hit a snag because of the Decentralisation Policy. It’s a serious issue. We have a World Bank project which wants water boards to manage the system if they are to provide funds on rehabilitation of the sewer systems, but with the clash between the two we might lose the funds.”
After the Area 18 saga, MHC said Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) was legally mandated to manage the sewers according to the 1995 Water Works Act. But without the city’s master plan, which is with MHC, it was difficult for LWB to manage the sewer system.
Committee co-chairperson Werani Chilenga said the ministry’s explanation was disappointing as people’s lives are at risk and government departments are busy fighting each other instead of finding a solution.
He has since said the committee will probe the matter further with concerned bodies for action.