Clean and safe water is essential if we are to have a healthier population. While most urban areas have piped water, rural area dwellers have boreholes which provide them with safe drinking water. However, some of the boreholes which most rural people in Malawi rely on for access to safe and clean water are becoming dysfunctional.
While some of these dysfunctional water points are in such state due to mechanical faults as a result of wear and tear of borehole components, others are fine but the water table has dropped too low.
Bitia Anussa, a middle aged woman from Kadewere village in Blantyre rural, wishes her village could have an uninterrupted source of safe water because it would save her time and expenses spent on treating her family members each time they fall sick from waterborne diseases.
Sadly, her wish isn’t coming true, as her community of about 300 people has two boreholes, only one is working at the moment while the other one dried up months ago.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, only 80 percent of 17 million Malawians have access to clean water, leaving out the remaining population of about 3.5 million still lacking access to safe and clean water.
Of the two boreholes we have in the village, only one is functional. The other one is failing to pump water due to what the technicians say, is the lowering level of the water table.— Bitia Anussa
Out of those with access to clean water, only those in urban and semi-urban areas have access to chlorine treated water as they have water treatment and provision utility entity in their respective towns. This leaves out those in rural areas, who make up the majority population in this South East African country, with boreholes as the only source of clean water.
With support from various stakeholders like multilateral donors and non-governmental organizations, the Malawi Government has over the years been sinking boreholes in various villages in rural areas to make sure everyone has access to clean water for drinking and household use. The boreholes are sunk at a place which water experts identify to have sustainable underground water levels.
This trend has supplied thousands of villages, translating into millions of people across the country, access to clean water, thereby reducing incidences of waterborne diseases among children and adults alike.
However, with inconsistent rainfall patterns in the last two years with very low rainfall, resulting in droughts that affected most parts of the country, many boreholes dried up as the water table has drastically gone down.
According to Frackson Nankwawa, a trained borehole technician who services dysfunctional boreholes in the area, the problem of boreholes not being able to pump out water has reached alarming levels in the area because he knows at least four water points which are not functional due to the low water table.
He believes that this is due to climate change and environmental degradation in the area. He is especially pointing out wanton cutting down of trees to make way for cultivation of fields and as a fuel wood.
The water situation has reached critical levels where we have at least four boreholes which are no longer able to pump out water. Most areas here are hilly, it means that the water table has dropped down significantly and since it is a dry season now, the borehole pumping rods don’t reach the water table. This means that these water points will only resume to function again when it will start to rain sometime in early December.— Frackson Nankwana
Nankwawa advises the communities to plant trees around their water points and hills to deal with the problem in the long run. He has seen this working well for other communities with their boreholes now running all year round.
For Anussa, the advice of Nankwawa is priceless. She says that they have already started preparing to plant trees on bare grounds such as hills or river banks, and they are planning to start doing the same boreholes’ catchment areas.
We now have a tree nursery from where we want to use the seedlings to plant trees around hills, river banks and boreholes to maintain our water table in the long run.— Bitia Anussa
The village head, Mussa Ofesi who is Chief Kadewere IV, says that the impacts of climate change are now affecting everyone to the extent that it is a challenge that needs joint effort to deal with, in order to make the world a better place again.