I was worried when power stayed on all day at home the other day. You kind of get nervous when that happens because it may mean that you need to brace for a very lengthy blackout to atone for indulging, albeit passively, in unduly prolonged enjoyment of power. Blackouts are now the norm rather than the exception.
Who is responsible for this state of affairs? Many people are quick to blame Escom for the excessive blackouts but most of such blame is misguided.
It is not that Escom employees go to work and fold their hands while sections of the society are grappling with blackouts.
They probably work harder than a great number of people do in various local organisations.
Where Escom got it wrong is that they were not proactive several years ago. They, in collaboration with Government, should have put in place measures to avert the crisis of critical power outages before they actually happened.
Solutions to diminishing c a p a c i t y o f p o w e r generation cannot be realised overnight. These are essentially engineering solutions, which will take a number of years to be brought to fruition.
Escom and Government should have established a l t e r n a t i v e p o w e r generation facilities ten or so years ago. They dilly dallied, and today we are in this sad situation.
We are literally at the mercy of weather. If rains come early and in adequate quantities, we will have relief. But that relief will be short lived because the dry season will soon catch up with us and we will be back to frequent blackouts.
What is being explored now, namely coal fired plants, solar generators, inter-connection and other solutions should have been explored ten years ago.
Experts did actually warn that there was urgent need for alternative sources of power but we did not listen. We lacked people crazy enough to do things that would have seemed ridiculous then, but which would have saved us now. Being proactive requires crazy minds.
I have met people who think that Americans are crazy to send spaceships to other worlds. One day, the human race shall seek refuge on these worlds because the world where we currently live, namely Mother Earth, is fast deteriorating and becoming incapable of supporting life. It i s g e t t i n g w a r m e r, the oxygen levels in o u r a t m o s p h e r e a r e d w i n d l i n g , f l o o d i n g a n d d r o u g h t s a r e becoming more common, population levels are sky-rocketing, and the list is endless.
The crazy minds are telling us to explore Mars and other worlds such as the moons of Jupiter and Saturn or indeed Earth-like planets outside our own solar system.
They are only being proactive but will not be appreciated now. There is no quick fix to power problems. Projects that may be embarked upon now will take three or four years to materialize. Meanwhile we will continue to live in darkness. The general population also shares a good portion of the blame.
No, we are not innocent although we are good at pointing fingers at Escom. We have razed our forests with such ferocity and thoroughness that the hills that were evergreen not too long ago are now bald.
Soche Hill used to have an impressive cover of uapaca kirkiana (masuku) trees. When people wanted to go to Soche hill to pray, it was necessary to assemble a sizeable team because you never knew what dangers lurked in the deep forest on the hill. Today anybody can go there alone without so much as an iota of fear.
D e d z a a n d Z o m b a mountains were adorned in green cover, the trees looking like a carpet from a distance. Ndirande and Chiradzulu were also beautifully covered by trees.
Chikangawa never allowed you to see the villages in the distance because the forest was so thick. Today, you can see 10 or more kilometers distant, a far cry from the situation of the 1970s and 1980s. As a result of the massive deforestation across the country, our soils have lost the ability to hold rain water.
The rate of run-off is very high. And as the water runs off, it carries with it huge quantities of soil, which get deposited in the water bodies as silt.
Driving along the lakeshore road the other day, I noticed that all but few of the rivers running into Lake Malawi were full of sand not water. With these conditions, i t b e c o m e s n ex t t o impossible to generate power.
We all need to search within our activities and habits and root out those that put undue pressure on our forests.