Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa has called for increased support from development partners to grow the water sector and sustain the gains made to date.
The minister made the appeal in Lilongwe on Wednesday during the 12th Irrigation, Water and Sanitation Joint Sector Review (JSR) Workshop held under the theme Creating a Sustainable and Resilient Malawi Through Irrigation, Water and Sanitation Development.
Nankhumwa noted that strides have been made, but the major challenge facing the water sector is climate change and its associated effects such as floods, drought and water pollution due to environmental degradation.
“Robust financing will ensure that the sector attains the national strategic objectives as stipulated in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III as well as the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs],” said the minister.
Nankhumwa admitted that there is still a population with no access to potable water and improved sanitation facilities, but observed that there is still a lot of land that can be developed for irrigation.
World Bank country manager Greg Toulmin commended Malawi for steps taken to develop the water sector as well as demonstrated capacity in resolving important challenges.
He mentioned the successes demonstrated by the water sector during the destructive floods caused by Cyclone Idai in early March this year where houses were destroyed, water supply systems damaged and hydrological monitoring stations malfunctioned as examples of collaboration and leveraging expertise that exists within this sector.
To strengthen resilience, Toulmin called for drastic revision of planning, designing and construction standards, to include more rigorous quality controls during construction, development of financial resources and procedures supported by regular monitoring and maintenance.
Water and Environmental Sanitation Network (Wesnet) chairperson Kate Harawa urged the government to increase budget allocation to local councils to ensure water sector challenges are addressed at local level.
She said Wesnet has been observing with concern that resource allocation to the water sector at local level has been low compared to other government sectors.
The JSR is a forum for policy guidance, budget and performance assessment which allows a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the sector to get an insight into, discuss and influence sector issues and development.
Overall, at national level the population with access to potable water stands at 85 percent while at regional level, access to improved water sources was 83 percent in the Northern Region, 83.7 percent in the Central Region and 87.3 percent in the Southern Region.
The access summary includes water sources from piped water, boreholes and protected shallow wells while access to piped water was higher in the Northern Region at 23.1 percent followed by the Southern Region at 19.1 percent and the Central Region at 16.2 percent.