Often we do hear the climate change advocates go about their jobs. Others are attending conferences all over the world. Some are raising funds for mitigating effects of climate change.
At a global level, the notion of sustainable development has taken stage. For the environmentalists, climate change is a matter of how we harvest natural resources while allowing for sustaining existing ones to support humankind.
To the capitalist, climate change is bad as it affects profits. For the conspiracy theorists, it’s a path towards doomsday and to cult leaders, the end is nigh. So what is the fuss about climate change?
My first temptation is to think of interpreting the Pharaohs dreams, but I will avoid it. Nonetheless, as a country we cannot avoid climate change. It has consequences for our livelihoods, costs of doing business, disasters and in a broader sense a diversion of resources for key sectors such as health and education. When disasters strike, emergency resources always need to be found and guess what happens? Resources are drawn from the budget. You can’t predict the magnitude.
Currently the country is undergoing a dry spell.
Crops are wilting and many people are likely to have acute food shortages. Similarly, rivers are drying up and the inflow of water into Lake Malawi is dwindling. Water levels are going down and potentially affecting power generation. Lilongwe City is facing huge water problems with plans to start pumping water from a dwindling Lake Malawi.
Get it. Before you even think of pumping water, there are also commercial interests to explore for oil. Now, the same water body in its dwindling state is the source of drinking water, source of hydro-energy and a source of livelihood for fishers along the shores. One can also throw in the Greenbelt Initiative with the lake as a source for massive irrigation to deal with perennial food shortages amid a population growing at slightly above three percent, one of the highest in the world.
It was common to hear of flooding in the Lower Shire as well as Karonga for many years. Not long ago did the military rescue children in the heart of the capital city. Homes have been washed away in Lilongwe City as a result of flooding. Mzuzu City has had a fair share of the city floods. Blantyre and Zomba cities have not been spared either. It’s coming all over. It is no longer a Lower Shire issue but getting grips across the country.
Examples abound. Chikangawa forest destruction is nothing but thirst for profit. The same tales can be said about the Dzalanyama, Zomba and Dedza forests. Mulanje Mountain is no exception.
While global summits about climate change have become a norm, the reality is that climate is changing. Rainfall patterns are becoming erratic and droughts are becoming common exerting pressure on food prices. Properties are being destroyed. The environment is being destroyed. The cost of building homes is rising steadily as first are being destroyed.
Electricity generation, especially hydro, is increasingly becoming a daunting task with hourly power cuts forcing businesses to invest in diesel generators. It has even gone further to have part of diesel power feed into the national grid. While inflation may have taken a slide, the pattern in non-food inflation doesn’t look that promising.
Alternative inflation measures show that the cost of living in all cities is on the rise. You can’t rule out climate effects and links in the wider frame of things as most households still use charcoal or firewood for cooking.
Mitigating these risks will require a very radical shift in our thinking and approach. For example it is high-time tree planting was revamped with increased funding to the directorate of forestry that closed many seedling breeding outlets across the country as the privatisation gospel went awash in the policy craft. That is why retrenched employees started burning down forests like Chikangawa. Communities have not been engaged.
Need I talk about enforcing building standards in the cities? River banks have become residential areas. Well, this thing is real and we are in for it, unless there is a radical policy shift. n