Nature remains an integral part of all humankind through provision of water, soil, air, vegetation, wildlife. Yet, human being’s activities including population growth, industrialization tend to pose threat to its existence while ignoring roles it plays on the earth.
In safeguarding the creation from compromise governments, nations put in place legal framework. This is the reasons the supreme law of the land, Malawi’s constitution clearly stipulates that responsible environmental management contributes towards achieving sustainable development, improved standards of people’s living and conservation of natural resources such as water, air, soil, vegetation, animals.
With laws and policies in place, the hungry for infrastructure development has contravened the nature’s survival as the country’s authority ignores thorough Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which encompasses pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, designing and engineering, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
Projects including agriculture or aquaculture, forestry, logging schemes to take place, mining, infrastructure, land development, energy generation, transmission, tourism, waste treatment and disposal, water supply are needed to pass through EIA.
But the case is different in Malawi as authorities’ priorities lie on social-economic growth overriding the sustainability commitment to the environmental management which is embodied in Malawi’s Vision 2020 that, “By the year 2020, Malawi, as a God-fearing nation will be secure, democratically mature, environmentally sustainable, self-reliant with equal opportunities for and active participation by all, having social services, vibrant culture and religious values and technologically driven middle-income economy”.
Consequently, the manufacturing industries have taken advantage of such a scurry for development by beating the stipulated laws in discharging wastes including acids, particulates, heated water, noxious gases into water sources such as streams, lakes, dams rivers.
For instance, the current scenario happening to Nankhaka River in the capital Lilongwe is an evidence of the law’s sabotage on the part of manufacturing companies by turning the water source into an industrial effluents deposit site.
Almost three years have elapsed, anxiety, uncertainties and impatience with health risks still gripping residents along the river which passes through Mgona, Area 28, Area 30, Chimoka, Senti, Area 18 B, Gulliver as domestic water usage including bathing, washing, gardening are no longer in progress due to health risks effluents have had on the locals.
“This river is very essential to us for domestic water usage. But, with the current status we are unable to use it for washing, bathing even drinking due to its damage. Honestly, urgent attention on this river is needed not later but now”, complains Martha Gama, Mgona resident.
The Maravi Post’s investigation on the river’s damage revealed that Carlsberg Malawi-Lilongwe Plant and Chibuku Beer Products Limited are the main culprits to this environmental damage scandal as their main sewers end up into Nankhaka River due to insufficient proper waste disposals as recommended by the law.
“Our company (Carlsberg Malawi) is a source of the river’s damage. This started when the company planted a third facility to increase production in 2011.Before this plant, company’s effluents from Plant I and II were discarded at Chatata area with full treatment. Plant III’s recycling facility isn’t managed well.
“A very worrying thing is that chemicals (Caustic) used to recycle effluents are toxic and reactive which kill aquatic plants, animals and also damage people’s skin. I can’t lie to you on this. I’m also concerned with the matter as a benefactor of the river for various domestic purposes which, it has become a dream now. If you are really serious about this then, do further investigations. Just take the sample of water then come to the recycling plant for comparison, you are to get the truth”, challenges the source to The Maravi Post.
Despite two series of articles published on how the water sources has been heavily polluted, the Carlsberg’s local media consultant vehemently took The Maravi Post to task by alleging the power online media for false publication aimed at tarnishing the company’s images which might scare its customers on the market, yet, the local remains dancing to tune of wastes discharged into the river only source of their living.
The country’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) through its Spokesperson, Sangwani Phiri is not helping matters by siding with the polluters in a bid to sure business deals is sustained for continual collection of taxes to fund government activities while locals still feeling the pitch of stream’s damage. No wonder, Carlsberg Malawi media consultant had the audacity trash the articles published on the matter and demanding its removal from the website.
“I write to express our concern over an article which was published on
your news website
Carlsberg Malawi, a subsidiary of Press Corporation Limited (PCL), followed up the issue and spokesperson for Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Sangwani Phiri says that he was approached by a reporter from Maravi Post but did not make any of the statements as reported in the said article.
“Furthermore the Environmental Affairs Department is not aware of any plans to shut down our Carlsberg plant in Lilongwe. This means that the article posted on Maravi Post has no basis and is in fact, unfounded.
“The negative impact of the story is much wider, affecting our other Carlsberg Markets. We would therefore require a retraction of those statements in order to rectify the damage done.
Please if your correspondents and reporters want to get correct information about PCL and its subsidiaries, tell them to get in touch with me”, fumed MacDonald Chalapata, PCL Media Consultant.
In vindicating on articles The Maravi Post has been publishing on this contentious issue, Lilongwe City Assembly (LCA) through natural resources and health committee contracted an independent technical laboratory to analyze the extent of the damage on the river whose results’ main effluents depositors’ culprits are Carlsberg Malawi and Chibuku Company.
Consequently, the council issued a warning letter whose reference number is LCA /H/INSP/1 dated 12 August, 2015 signed by the acting Lilongwe Council CEO a Mr. Mulula, to the two companies for their conduct of continual polluting the water source.
The water samples which experts from Ministry of water used in tested were collected from Chibuku Product Limited Main effluent drain at Kanengo, Carlsberg Malawi main effluent drain at M1 road at Kanengo, Nankhaka River at Railway bridge, Nankhaka river upstream main effluent drain point and Nankhaka river downstream main effluent drain point.
Elements determined in the report were electrical conductivity, suspended solids, chemical oxygen demand, nitrate, dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, power hydrogen ions and phosphate.
The report contained a dossier file Reference Number WQPCD 5/11 and signed by Deputy Director of water of water quality services in the ministry, Peaches Phiri, found that the power of ions (pH) values registered in waste water samples under review ranged from 5.79 to 8.17 while the lowest pH was registered in effluent at Chibuku main drain whereas the highest effluent was registered at Carlsberg main effluent.
The report also reveals that Biochemical Oxygen Demand(BOD5) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)Cr) values observed ranged from 0.4 to 5.2 mg/1, 8.8 to 96.0mg/1 and 27.4 to 326 mg /1 respectively.
“An analysis conducted on 8 April,2015 from wastewater points implied that there is non compliance of effluent from Carlsberg /Chibuku at Kanengo premises with Malawi standards for waste water to be discharged onto the environment (MS691: 2005).
“Data generated from the wastewater points implied noncompliance of effluent from Chibuku Company and Carlsberg. Malawi Limited at Kanengo premises with Malawi Standards for waste water to be discharged on the environment. You are therefore being urged to ensure that there is pre- treatment of the final effluent before discharging onto the environment in order to prevent pollution”, recommends the report.
With such revelations and warning letter, it had to take the entire Carlsberg company headquarters in Denmark in giving convincing responses from the helpless locals on what actions might be employed in reversing the damaged river.
“Carlsberg Malawi is currently working on an action plan for water treatment as agreed with the local Environmental Affairs Department at the beginning of this year. All actions indicated for 2015 have been completed and Carlsberg Malawi has received no further reports from the Environmental Affairs Department.
“We are committed to working in cooperation with government departments to ensure environmental protection. To that end, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment’s Environmental Affairs department visited our Lilongwe Plant on 14th August for an inspection, and we are currently waiting for the release of test results from that inspection”, assures Jim, one of officials in Denmark.
Speaking to Dorothy Tembo, Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA)’ Programme officer fall short of acknowledgment to the pollution happened to Nankhaka River.
“We are caught of guard on this matter. The problem has been brought to our attention now though three years have passed communities encountering numerous challenges which came into being due to the damage. As such will work on it by getting the bottom of the matter for the right response and approach”, pledges Tembo.
Thus, local are anxiously waiting for the answers from the authority though betrayed that these companies are responsible for their own actions by honoring the universal’s Polluters Pay Principle.