Mulanje — A water point mapping exercise done in Mulanje District this year has revealed that over 200 boreholes in the district are at risk of contamination.
The exercise, done by University of Strathclyde and Water for People, shows that at least 213 boreholes in the district are within range of pollution, some as close as 10 meters from a possible contamination source like pit latrine.
Mulanje District Water Development Officer (DWDO), Edwin Mchilikizo said in an interview that this has a devastating effect on the health of communities as it can lead to diseases associated with poor sanitation like diarrhea once a borehole is contaminated.
"The recommended distance to drill a borehole is at least 50 meters away from pit latrines or any possible contamination source. However when boreholes are drilled, people start building their houses and pit latrines near the water point.
"This gives a chance for the water to be polluted as the waste can combine with the water underground and cause diseases associated with poor sanitation to surrounding residents using the borehole," he said.
Mchilikizo also attributed the borehole situation to lack of coordination between Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working in the district and the water development office when drilling boreholes.
"There are also some NGOs which just go into communities and start drilling boreholes without coordinating with us. Sometimes they don't consider the recommended 50 meter distance away from contamination sites, they just drill as long as they will find water.
"This is because sometimes they are influenced by traditional leaders and politicians who coerce them to drill boreholes near their homes or a place of their liking for their benefit. This contributes to the problem as they don't consider the distance factor between the borehole and any possible contamination site," Mchilikizo added.
He said however people need not worry much as it does not always follow that any borehole near a contamination site will be polluted as it depends on the soil formation or geological structure of the place.
"Just because a borehole is near a contamination source does not necessarily mean that it will be contaminated. There are other factors involved like the geological structure of the environment.
"If the soil formation of the area does not allow movement of ground water, then it's hard for the borehole to be contaminated. But if the formation allows for water movement then the risk of contamination is high. This is why we do water quality testing every now and then to see if the water is drinkable," he said.