Minister of Irrigation and Water Development Charles Mchacha has commended the contractor of the K175 billion Shire Valley Transformation Programme (SVTP), Conduril, for starting groundwork amid the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
The minister, speaking yesterday when he toured the first batch of phase one programme site in Chikwawa District, expressed optimism that the project would be completed on time.
He said: “When President Peter Mutharika launched the programme last month, he said it would move Malawi from rain-fed to irrigated agriculture.
“At the rate the works are going at the site, I am sure that people will benefit from the project soon.”
Mchacha also said compensation is going on well as government has already paid out about K1.13 billion to affected people.
On his part, Conduril project manager Aires Enosse said works at the project started last month with mobilisation of equipment.
He said they have so far cleared 95 percent of the main canal route.
However, Enosse said Covid-19 has affected construction works as they have just brought in 10 percent of the required equipment. He said they cannot bring in additional equipment because the borders are closed with most countries on lockdown.
“Some of the key people that we need to hire are also not in the country because of the same problems,” he said.
SVTP project coordinator Sandram Maweru said they are engaging the contractor to ensure that no time is lost amid Covid-19 pandemic since the first phase is expected to take place within 30 months.
“We are working out a plan to ensure that we don’t lose much time because that [losing time] is costly since we might end up spending more than planned,” he said.
The SVTP is expected to irrigate 43 370 hectares by extracting water from Shire River at Kapichira Falls and conveying it by gravity through canals to the irrigable area in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts. The programme seeks to increase agricultural productivity and commercialisation for targeted households in the Shire Valley and to improve sustainable management and utilisation of natural resources.