Taking Into Account The Power Challenges Rocking Malawi

Dry Shire river contributing to electricity problems

Dry Shire river contributing to electricity problems

Let us get to the basics. There is a public institution called National Statistics Organisation (NSO). Its task is to produce statistics on wide-ranging issues, including projection of population.

One of the reasons population projections are made is to help authorities in planning and in order to take appropriate actions to deal with the realities of the future.

That demand on social services would grow like it has happened was projected almost 4 decades ago. Apparently, authorities of the time (40 years ago) did not respond accordingly.

Successive administrations have had to grapple with the pressures of this lack of vision. Population has outgrowing the means by which the country can meet demands on socio-economic services.

While the NSO kept making population projections, authorities, of then, did not accordingly match the investment in hydro-power generation capacities, for instance.

The population kept rising at almost 60 percent on average, for example, and we invested in power supply by almost 5 percent on average.

Because Malawi is blessed with water, we got obsessed with that source of energy. We never cared to diversify into other sources of energy – coal, wind, geothermal.

Today, that lack of vision by our patriarchs is haunting the country.

Are you listening those of you from MCP?

The demand for power surpasses the capacity to supply it. The effects of climate change have worsened matters. Low rainfall has led to a drop of water levels or its availability in our water sources.

The reduced volumes of water have caused reduced generation capacities in our hydro power stations.

The heat continues to cause evaporation, further lowering the water levels every day, and so too every day the power generation capacities are further reducing.

Back to the statistics. The population growth projections would also have alerted the authorities (of then) that as population grows so demand on means for economic survival would increase.

There was therefore need for visionary investment in schools, hospitals, roads and job creating activities. But as population boomed, investment remained lax.

Today, our water sources cannot manage to meet the demand for water. Our dams were built like our population would stagnate.

Our hospitals cannot cope. Our roads are either always congested or they are wearing out easily because they were not planned for the kind of traffic they take every day, today.

Our schools cannot take more than their sizes. The investment in job creation activities was low. Consequently, we created a cadre of a population that had to find its own means to survive.

The environment took a hit. Every available tree got cut to produce charcoal for sale or used for creation of settlements or indeed to erect burners for tobacco processing.

Hunting for animals for subsistence or sale led to the torching of bushes and destruction of forests.

The growth in families created need to create more space to accommodate gardens.

In the process of doing this, vegetative cover that would hold water flows when it rained got depleted. The river banks also lost its cover. Rivers remained bare to the heat of the sun. Evaporation took its toll.

As the rains became more erratic; the rivers, without cover, lost its volumes of water; the lake started dwindling; and its outlet – the Shire River – lost is swagger too. Downstream, the waters into the turbines that spin to produce electricity lowered.

So here we are.

A Government that came into office two years ago, cannot reverse the effects of the omissions of four decades in a fortnight.

Government’s don’t operate on miracles. They operate on strategies. The omission in our development strategy to expand the circle of power sources cannot be blamed on this government.

The blindness of our President of 40 years ago cannot be blamed on Arthur Peter Mutharika.

Let Mutharika be blamed for sins he has committed, not the sins of others.
Suffice it to say, with regard to the failure to invest appropriately in the power sector for which the country has to reel under the current challenges, Mutharika has committed no sin.

A story is told that power supply improved under one Joyce Banda. What is never told by those story tellers is that she came into power after the Bingu administration had just finished maintaining our hydro supply capacities at Kapichira.

These story tellers will also appropriately omit the fact that Joyce Banda never faced two consecutive droughts which have drastically affected the water levels in the lake.

Or, if the story tellers could be asked, which investment did Joyce Banda make to add width to our power supply?

The DPP does not want to play politics with a matter that is central to the life of the nation.

Doing so would be petty. And DPP is not petty. That is why this administration has embarked on a number of initiatives to address the chronic irresponsibility of the past.

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