Well, I agree, and I will always do so, that water—that tasteless and colourless liquid, is life.
But, let me ask, what happens when water bodies and reservoirs experiences drastic fall in their levels and some are drying up completely?
The answer is simple: human survival is under threat. Indeed, human survival is unquestionably under threat in Malawi.
Our water bodies and reservoirs—the two assets we rely on for agriculture and domestic use—are experiencing critical low water levels and some are drying up.
Just look around.
Two years ago, Lake Chilwa, Malawi’s second largest lake, dried up. This year, 80 percent of the 200 square kilometre Lake Chiuta has dried up. By the way, Lake Chilwa and Lake Chiuta, if you did not know, used to be one. Science tells us they are separated 8 000 years due to, as you would guess, climate change.
But I am not just talking about those two water bodies.
The Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has been publishing details of the emergent load shedding due to record low levels of water in Shire River. This, definitely, points to low water levels even in Lake Malawi—a vast body of water which experts say almost dried up in the 1950s.
Not only that.
Just look at what used to be perennial rivers in your respective areas.
Renowned human rights lawyer Chrispine Sibande recently circulated a photo on Facebook showing a dried up river in his home village in Mzimba. It used to be a perennial river, he wrote.
Trust me, from Karonga through Nkhotakota to Nsanje, the image of drying rivers are quite a common sight. Most rivers in the country are suffering the same fate: drying up and experiencing record low water levels.
These examples only underline my earlier point that our human survival, with shrinking water bodies, is under threat.
In fact, as a nation, we have already started experiencing the impact of this.
Our fields are dry, as a result, we are failing, each and every year, to produce enough to feed ourselves. Water service deliveries by our water boards continue to plummet. We cannot manufacture competitively because Escom, due to low water levels, cannot generate enough power.
These are truths we need, as a nation, accept and face if we are to safeguard our survival.
Communities, the ones that shoulders the largest share of consequences, need to understand that what we are experiencing is human induced, as such, can be reversed.
Policy makers and executors need to be challenged with scientific facts of what were are going through so that whatever step they take should be informed by evidence.
Unfortunately, this, ashamedly, is still not the case.
Communities are still struggling to understand the forces behind their dwindling produce and also their water bodies drying up and experiencing low water levels.
I was shocked, while visiting the drying up Lake Chiuta weeks ago. Communities connected the tragedy to ‘wishes of God’. With such a belief, how do you convince communities to engage in good environmental practices that would help bring more rains and also contain the environment?
The situation, to be honest, has, again, been compounded by what I would call the ‘indifferent’ attitude of our policy makers.
For instance, the problem of an emerging El Nino was forecasted by scientists almost four years ago. Government officials cannot dispute this.
Look at the drying up of Lake Chiuta. Scientists have been following the lake’s behaviour since the 1950s. The data is there. Its drying this year should not have been news.
These cases underline how, as a nation, we are our own culprits in managing our natural resources. Our scientists are working tirelessly generating information which must inform policy.
Our policy makers are failing to provide the environmentally conscious leadership needed in this age of climate change. We will perish. n