Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has backed the Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) resource mobilisation drive to finance its projects to improve water supply for the capital city’s growing population.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa yesterday said the LWB-organised conference to court potential financiers was timely in a bid to avert the impending water supply crisis.
He said: “If we don’t plan today, time will come when there will be no water at all. This is a critical conference to plan ahead for the water needs of the population.
“As government, we are very much committed to support such initiatives, what we need to do is to put up proper legal and policy framework that would enhance investments into the water sector.”
LWB needs about $460 million (about K340 billion) for its various investments as espoused in its investment plan.
Nankhumwa said government has incentives on offer to investors, but the common demand has been to do with tax waivers on imported investment equipment.
In his outline of key projects, LWB chief executive officer Engineer Alfonso Chikuni said the board is promoting the Diamphwe Multi-purpose Dam and associated facilities, conveyance systems to draw water from Kamuzu Dam to the city, production plant, expansion of the existing distribution network and enhancement of sanitation facilities.
He said if investment materialises, the plan is to have 100 percent water supply coverage for Lilongwe City population by 2030.
Chikuni said so far some LWB traditional donor representatives, including the World Bank, European Investment Bank (EIB) and African Development Bank (AfDB) attended the meeting. He said potential donors such as China, Japan and Egypt representing Afreximbank are also in attendance.
He said most of the donors such as the World Bank and EIB are interested in big projects such as the Diamphwe Multi-purpose Dam and water treatment plants.
Said Chikuni: “We already have commitments from them and we expect just to solidify the commitments during the conference.”
In terms of investment structure and financing, he said the board was open to either going solo by only accessing financial facilities for its projects or through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
Currently, Lilongwe City has a population of over one million and LWB manages to supply 85 percent of the population with potable water.
In its quest to fill the water supply gap, the board organised its two-day maiden Infrastructure Investment Financing Conference, which ends today, to court traditional and non-traditional donors for investment considerations.
Dutch Water Operators regional project manager for Africa, Siemen Veenstra, who delivered the keynote address at the conference said government should stop interference in the day to day operations of parastatals such as LWB.
He said: “You don’t have to ask for external support always because it puts pressure on you to be accountable to the external financiers. There is no problem in receiving support from elsewhere ,but you have to use it intelligently to disconnect yourself from it.”
The conference comes at a time when both LWB and government seem to have abandoned the much-touted K400 billion Salima-Lilongwe Water Project after failing to find a financier.
South Africa-based Khato Civils had emerged as a contractor for the project. The company had moved in some of its heavy-duty equipment for what was to be a historic and iconic project to move water across a 120-kilometre stretch from Lake Malawi, in Salima, to Lilongwe.
In 2017, the World Bank abandoned the Diamphwe Water Project over several disagreements, including a long list of people claiming compensation for being displaced by the project..
Had everything gone as planned, construction of the Diamphwe Multi-purpose Dam could have started in 2017.