Environmental Curse That Comes with Development: The Case of Chikwawa
Chikwawa town is a place bustling with activities. The town of about 60,000 people marks the start of the Shire Valley, a flat area of about 300 square kilometres comprising of two administrative districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje in southern Malawi.
This is a region where Malawi’s biggest river, The Shire passes by on its way to empty its water in the great Zambezi at Chinde in Mozambique.
As the river meanders from the highlands, its water generously provides for everyone along the way. Fishermen depend on the river for fish, while farmers practice irrigation farming on the river banks, and thousands of people rely on the same river for water for domestic use.
More than 60 percent of Malawi’s sugar is produced using sugarcane grown along the Shire. In fact the river has more influence on the economic outlook of the area than any other factors.
Coming to the town itself, it has developed from a small administrative town of about 10,000 people twenty years ago, to a vibrant economic hub of 60,000 people thanks to the agricultural and industrial developments, especially sugar plantations and ethanol distilling plant. All of which are employing thousands of people directly or indirectly.
However, the growth of the town has brought with it various challenges, as explained by a local resident Josephine Mussa, who complains about the increasing levels of pollution as a result of unregulated disposal of waste by both individuals and companies. The most prominent problem being a bad and intoxicating odour that comes from open waste pits of the ethanol distilling company, Presscane Limited.
Since 2014, we have been experiencing an intoxicating and bad smell coming from the ethanol distilling disposal pits. The unpleasant odour is worse in the months of October and November when it is usually windy.— Josephine Mussa
Mussa says they have lodged complaints to the distilling company several times to no avail. According to her, they even complained to the district council about the same issue but nothing has been done.
Efforts to speak to the officials of the distiller company Presscane Limited were unsuccessful, as they refused to have their side of the story heard.
However, chairman of Chikwawa District Council, Councillor Dyson Manjolo acknowledged receiving an official complaint about the air pollution from the community and the company promised to rectify the problem within the third quarter of the year.
“We indeed received complaints by the citizenry and we summoned the officials from the company on the same. They have promised to deal away with the problem by the month of September, so we are just waiting.” he said.
Another challenge the town is facing, is the late refuse collection and disposal that makes the town’s main market at Dyeratu untidy. And also puts the population at risk of contracting diseases, as explained by Monica Chingota, who sells fresh food at the market.
Most of the times, we worry about the risk of diseases emanating from all the uncollected refuse which is all over. We wonder what the council is doing about this?— Monica Chingota
Chingota hopes the council and other stakeholders will soon come up measures to deal with the challenge of refuse piling up, as this makes the town look dirty despite all the new infrastructure being constructed there.
Our town is growing rapidly with modern infrastructure, signifying development. However, with the uncontrolled refuse disposal and air pollution stemming from the distilling company, the town does not look well. I hope the authorities will deal with these challenges soon.
Concludes optimistic Chingota.