The World Bank and the government of Malawi yesterday signed a $100 million (about K73 billion financing agreement to let the Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) and Lilongwe City Council (LCC) start implementing the Lilongwe Water and Sanitation Project (LWSP).
On December 20 last year, the World Bank approved LWSP project whose objective is to improve water and sanitation services in the city and surrounding areas.
This was followed by Parliament’s approval to allow the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development begin spending on the project.
Speaking at the signing ceremony on Tuesday, World Bank country manager Greg Toulmin said: “Lilongwe City is currently faced with considerable water security challenges that must be addressed urgently to serve the needs of the growing population and enhance economic activities in the capital.”
He observed the project will ease the current strain on the system and improving reliability of services by significantly reducing, and in some cases, eliminating intermittent supplies.
About two thirds of the project funds will be used to rehabilitate and expand the water distribution network which will include 27 kilometres (km)of new transmission mains and associated pumping stations and storage reservoirs, as well as upgrading 142 km of the existing network.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said the sanitation situation in Lilongwe City is in shambles as only a small percentage of people use sewer systems.
He said: “LWSP was extremely popular in Parliament as it is very important since it will help solve sanitary challenges. The sanitation situation is terrible since about five percent of the population is served by the sewer system which is also in a dilapidated form.”
He attributed the situation to responsible organisations’ lack of commitment to timely maintain equipment believed to be too old.
LWB chief executive officer Alfonso Chikuni said he is confident the board will repay the loan as expected since it has put some strict measures which will help it fight water losses.
Upon completion, the project is expected to improve the systems hydraulic capacity, reduce losses by ten percent to help half a million residents to have access to quality water and sanitary services.
Early this year, Parliament embraced the project which is expected to begin after funds are disbursed.
According to Toulmin, the World Bank Group has been a long-standing and valued partner in the Malawi water sector for more than 20 years.