Mzimba — The water sector in the country has had its fair share of challenges especially in supplying adequate and safe water to large sections of the population.
Increased population over the years has even worsened this challenge of inadequate water supply in most parts in the country.
Mzimba urban area in the northern region has not been spared from this challenge.
The district's water officer Khuta Mzguli says Mzimba has been perennially hit with the problem of dry taps because the old and small system cannot withstand the increased demand that has come with population boom.
The water system, run by Northern Region Water Board (NRWB), was instituted in 1950 targeting the small population of that time.
"The system isno longer effective because increase in population has heightened water demand for Mzimba Urban area," Mzguli observes
Households and public institutions have frequently bore the blunt of water shortage in Mzimba.
Mzimba South District Hospital is one of the institutions that at times struggle to provide quality health service because of water shortage challenge.
Hospital's district environmental health officer (DEHO) Bestido Nkhoma laments that the hospital faces serious challenges in its operations because of low water pressure or no supply at all.
"Hygiene and sanitation standards are often compromised and this puts the community at hospital premises at risk of various waterborne diseases," Nkhoma says.
But a new water project, called the Mzimba Integrated Urban Water and Sanitation, is expected to banish those challenges to the past. Thanks to a multibillion project that government is implementing through the Northern Region Water Board (NRWB).
Chairperson for Mbelwa District Council Fumu Mdolo - Pic by Ed-Grant Ndoza
The project, which is worth $22.85 million, is expected to upgrade and expand the old water supply system to improve water supply in Mzimba Urban Area.
Financial resources as loans from OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) amounting to $14.5 million, African Development Bank (ADB) ($5 million) and a $3 million commitment from government is bankrolling the project.
Once completed, the project is expected to improve living condition of people in Mzimba urban area and other surrounding places, according to NRWB chief executive officer Titus Mtegha.
"The new water system will improve the health and livelihood people through improved access to potable water, hygiene and sanitation services," Mtegha says.
He adds that people will no longer experience erratic water supply once the system is running.
Work at the project site is progressing well to satisfaction of many including legislators.
Deputy chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament John Chikalimba and his committee recently visited the site and was left impressed with the pace and quality of the work.
"The quality of the project will withstand the test of time and benefit future generations without a problem," says Chikalimba adding that the country will get value for the financial resources it has invested in the projects.
In 2016, Parliament approved $14.5 million from OFID and $5 million from ADB, following the tabling of two loan authorization Bills in Parliament by Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe.
M'mbelwa District Council is thankful to government and NRWB for the water project which it describes as timely and crucial.
"People in Mzimba urban area have persevered for years without a reliable and permanent water source. Life was unbearable but now that is coming to an end," says council chairperson, Fumu Mdolo,
The chair, who also councilor for Kasito East Ward, says the council will support government in its transformative development agenda in Mzimba.
The upgraded water supply scheme is tapping water from Mzimba River, right inside Chikangawa Forest Reserve, 45 km South East of Mzimba Boma.
Among other infrastructure works at the site is construction of a magnificent weir (Dam) at the water source, which is now complete, according to Water and Sanitation Engineer, Jackson Mtungila.
To ensure that there is continuous water retention at the source, NRWB has planted 600,000 tree seedlings at the source to fortify the weir for sustainability of the whole water system.
Engineer Mtungila, who is also the Project Coordinator, says major project works currently underway include construction of a water treatment plant at Machecheta Area, a long Mzuzu- Lilongwe M1 Road.
Other works include the planting of seven tanks (reservoir) that in strategic areas of the urban area.
The new water supply system, which is targeting a population of 48,000 people, is expected to pump out a water volume of 12 million liters in a day.
The project, which started in April 2017, is expected to end in October this year.
President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika launched the water project in May, 2017 by stating that his government is committed to ensuring that Malawians have sustainable access to safe and potable water
In reference to the Mzimba water project, President Mutharika said it is high time women stopped travelling long distances to draw water by having piped water at the doorstep
"For 31 years, the country has experienced water challenges where women travel long distances to access water but now that will be a thing of the past because of outlined planes to provide water to Malawians," Mutharika said.