The rainy season is over. A period that brings with it a lot of natural disasters from flooding. Destruction of crops, livestock, roads, businesses, bridges, schools, police stations and clinics, among others. The costs are huge for business as well as reconstruction. It is getting dry now and we seem to have it gone until next rainy season.
In 2015, a state of national disaster was declared and it is great to see Malawians united to deal with the crisis. These disasters are perennial but this season it has been unprecedented. Cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre has taken a hit as well.
One major highlight of the disaster has been Blantyre, the country’s commercial hub. Blantyre has been dry and dark because the two parastatals responsible cannot pump water or generate electricity. Siltation in both scenarios appears to be the main problem no matter who takes the blame. It can be a discussion for another day.
A serious after thought is how much is these floods and associated effects are going to cost the country’s economy. The water shortages has been a time bomb waiting to happen given our rapid rate of urbanization. Lilongwe, never known to have these problems has also joined the fray. It’s kind of an equation that runs in trojan cycles. Couldn’t it be time to get implementing strategic ideas as opposed to traditional piecemeal solutions?
It appears we have many climate change and artificial urban planning disasters waiting to happen. Beginning to throw times back, Ndirande and Soche ountains were all green. But the rampant and often misunderstood democracy got all of us building houses all over these mountains. One quick result is Chilobwe flooding from the effects of a bare Soche Mountain. The Chikangawa, Zomba and Dedza forests are topo disappearing and you really cant rule out Chilobwe style disasters in the future.
It is, therefore, worthy noting that a court recently took a tough stance against loggers in one of the parks. Parliament was also vigilant and united in passing a new bill to protect wildlife and the environment. Protecting natural forests, replanting and strict enforcement of laws regarding deforestation remains the main key to mitigating the impact of disasters. After all there is a climate change policy that should be seen to work.
The idea is not start the climate change gospel, but in business intelligence our concern remain spanners to economic prosperity. Some of the areas, especially in urban areas have taken the floods as a result of poor planning. Each person can design their own drainage systems and monitoring of building standards is an elusion. If we look at households as producing units or consumers, these climate change disasters are a huge costs and take away any gains. Any new actions are essentially reconstructive to retain the lost state of affairs. It is a recipe of stagnation.
A stitch in time saves nine so goes the adage. There could have been no need to pump water from Salima to Lilongwe, aside its associated controversies, environment cost, financial implications if protecting catchment areas supporting water systems were strictly enforced. It’s a topic for another day, but we can reflect on benefits of sustainable management of the environment such as reducing the impact of man-made natural disasters such as perennial flooding.
It should baffle any strategist for sure. Once it begins to rain, power goes off whether there is flooding or not. And of course the other aspect is the fact water shortages arise due to failures of pumps to work. The line continues every year. Businesses have to stock up on diesel and water to keep running, often below capacity.
And then next day we walk into bank and wondering why it takes weeks to get foreign exchange. Who can competitively export secondary products manufactured using a diesel powered factory? It is impossible. It is for this reason that each year and out, the ease of doing business is far from favorable. The tricky part is that the wait and see approach to infrastructure investment scares the hell out of any potential foreign investor.
The current wave of flooding has hit us at our most vulnerable state in the wake of freezing of donor aid brought about by our own actions. While there has been sympathy and outpouring good will, it is time to let the floods be a renaissance on how we do business.
Precisely, the flooding should be a reminder that we need to build strong systems in our daily areas of life. A prosperous and strong economy naturally is resilient and can fend off easily some of the costs associated with natural calamities. Water and energy providers must wake up to realise that our population is growing and any influx of investment surges demand for such services. Climate change is real and the more we make drastic actions to stop encroachment of forest reserves or catchments areas, the benefits to the economy are far much wider than a mere a balance sheet of utility companies. n