Ntcheu Boma is dry. For the past five months, the supply of piped water has been erratic. The district hospital, secondary school, restaurants and district commissioner’s office are among places hardest hit.
Following the loss of piped water, district health officer (DHO) Mike Chisema said in an interview on Thursday the 300-bed Ntcheu District Hospital, which serves between 700 and 1 000 patients a day, now relies on groundwater pumped into tanks and then supplied to the rest of the hospital using drums.
He said: “The hospital needs a lot of water, especially in washrooms and laundry departments.”
Ntcheu Secondary School, which has a student population of 1 200, runs on one borehole.
“The crisis has affected the running of the school, and the situation is very worrisome,” said boarding master Axon Chayiwalika.
“Without the borehole, the school would have been closed by now. Students have to go out of campus to draw water. These days, school activities start late, but we can’t do anything about it.”
On his part, district commissioner (DC) Smart Gwedemula told our sister newspaper, Weekend Nation, last week that the situation is worsening by the day.
“Flush toilets are no longer in use,” he said, adding that staff are encouraged to use pit latrines.
The crisis emanates from failure by Central Region Water Board (CRWB) to tap enough water from Chipusile River in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mpando’s area where some people divert the water, using motorised pumps, to irrigate their gardens.
According to Gwedemula, a group of farmers encroached a forest reserve in a hilly area where the river that supplies water to Mpila Dam passes. But efforts to get them out of the forest reserve have proved futile, he said.
Last week police arrested 11 farmers on suspicion that they diverted water from the protected area. The law enforcers also confiscated some of their motorised pumps and garden equipment, the DC explained.
CRWB spokesperson Zephillino Matumba last week asked for a questionnaire. He was yet to respond to it as we went to press.
But there is tension among residents following the arrest and subsequent release, on bail, of the suspected farmers.
Some farmers we spoke to vowed to deal with anyone who will dare to disrupt their farming activities.
The Department of Forestry in the district has also expressed displeasure with the development.
Assistant district forestry officer Aubrey Palani said in an interview that the farmers’ encroachment on forest reserve has brought misery and suffering to thousands in the district. n