Blantyre — Some businesses and residents of Blantyre have expressed concern over the perpetual strong smell emanating from Mudi River.
Random interviews among some business operators and residents indicate that the river smells a lot especially at night making residents and customers very uncomfortable.
Malawi News Agency has established that much as some industrial companies are contributing to the problem due to broken sewer pipes, vandalism of main sewer line from Wenela side to Blantyre main sewage is partially contributing to the state of affairs.
A visit to the place established that raw sewage is literally flowing into the river but the supporting poles of the (vandalized) sewer pipe are still there.
The Manager for the Royal Palm Hotel, a facility which operates some 100 meters away from the sewer 'water fall', Mohamed Sajid told Mana in an interview on Monday that the hotel has heavily been affected by the river's smell since it opened in November, 2011.
"We receive local and international visitors and most of them have been complaining of the smell. The vandalized pipe is not the only thing that is causing discomfort. There is another blocked sewer pipe behind our premises which is also another problem," he lamented.
Sajid added that since some sewer water is stuck near river banks, this has also contributed to the breeding of mosquitoes.
"Since many customers have been complaining of mosquitoes, business has not been going on well. We have noticed a poor customer turn up recently and it's obvious that the smell is the major contributing factor," he bemoaned.
"The Blantyre City Council and the Malawi Bureau of Standards come to inspect our premises' operation standards and hygiene, surprisingly they never mention anything about the smell of the river yet there are a lot of cockroaches that are in our premises courtesy of the mess from the river," said the owner of one of the affected businesses who opted for anonymity.
"Sometimes I don't feel like eating in my own house because of the strong smell that comes from the river. This is particularly strong during the night," said one of the Blantyre based residents only identified as Mary.
She pointed out that at least during the rainy season the smell reduces since the waste is washed away.
She added: "For the past three years, I have been inhaling polluted air. I'm told it's because sewer pipes are flowing into the river. I wonder what the authorities are doing about this issue."
Commenting on the issue, Environmental District Officer (EDO) for Blantyre, Maxwell Mbulaje said BCC's sewer system needs an overhaul since it seems there is a lot of pressure from the general public over this issue.
"If the business communities are also complaining it means something has to be done urgently," he said.
BCC Deputy Director of Engineering, Stone Khondowe said he was not aware that the sewer pipe at clock tower was vandalized saying he will send over some employees from his department to work on it.
"I have not received any complaint of sewer blockage recently but since you say there are so many issues on the city sewer system, I would suggest we meet in person on a fresh day so that this issue is discussed once and for all," he said, adding that his work colleague will have to explain his part of the sewer system issues as well.
Meanwhile, Mana has learnt that the country does not have an independent agency to check on the environmental operations of councils.
After noting this gap, the Environmental Act (1996) was reviewed and submitted to parliament in 2003 but nothing has been done to date.
It keeps going to parliament and returned due to cabinet minister changes.
If there was an independent Environmental protection agency, they would be in a better position to pressurize the city councils to fix things that are deemed environmentally hazardous.
At the moment, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has EDOs countrywide and has recently deployed Environmental Inspectors across the country.
At the moment, the EDOs and Inspectors may be powerless to act on failures of councils since it may seem a government to government war which mostly does not work out as it has been witnessed in many issues like that of pollution of Mudi river and poor sewer management in Blantyre.
Media reports recently quoted the Blantyre City Council CEO, Ted Nadolo as saying that the office needs K1 Billion to maintain the whole of the Blantyre City sewer system.