Lake Malawi is one of only three deep-water long-lived lakes in existence on earth; others are Lakes Tanganyika and Baikal (Siberia). Of course, Lake Malawi is the undisputed jewel of Africa comprising 18.5% of the surface freshwater supplies of the world (out of all the water on earth only 2.5–2.75% is fresh water and less than 0.01% of it as surface water in lakes, swamps and rivers). The North Americans have their Great Lakes which constitute 20% of the surface freshwater supplies of the world and swear they would not trade them for anything; much less allow any oil and gas drilling in the Great Lakes waters.
To, therefore, leave the decision that is fated to relegates into ecological oblivion a 6.5 million-year-old wonder, this God’s providence— a national resource that has sustained the livelihoods of hundreds of generations—to one or two individuals who seem consumed by unrepressed primeval greed and heartless selfishness with affinity to the country that cannot stand any serious scrutiny is the height of ‘licentious, criminal and treasonous’ dereliction of citizenry responsibility in the truest sense of the words.
Any oil-pollution of the lake will not only impact the lakeshore populations but populations across the country and adversely affect wide-ranging economic activities whose ultimate water-source is the lakes waters—Blantyre residents will dearly appreciate the taste of oil-polluted drinking water, Lilongwe residents will surely revel in a beer or Fanta or Coca-Cola produced from oil-polluted water, the people of Goliati will opportunely consume sugar manufactured from oil-polluted water, the people of Zomba will gleefully devour beef from cows sustained on oil-polluted water, recreationists on the lake will jubilantly savor whiffs of hydrocarbons and houses with a smut of oil-polluted paste in the plaster will be a delightful respite! Of course the decimation of all aquatic life on the lake and rivers sustained by it will serve as a great icing on the cake! (The largest petroleum spill that has ever occurred in fresh water was caused by a very seasoned Royal Dutch Shell tank ship in Magdalena, Argentina, on 15 January 1999, polluting the environment, drinkable water, plants and animals).
Let us call for a balanced and transparent referendum on the issue of exploiting oil on our lake –let us hear and heed the voices of the people we claim to represent–considering the gravity of the issue and the far-reaching consequences likely to emanate from the decision to proceed with oil and gas exploration and exploitation in our fresh-water lake that presently provides immeasurable economic sustenance for the nation.
Let the proponents of oil and gas drilling on the lake convince their consciences and the nation’s that oil-drilling on Lake Malawi will not raise the risk of oil spills, hazardous gas leaks, and pollution that will surely harm lakeside residents, the lake’s ecosystem and economic activities sustained by the lake’s waters, directly or indirectly (they can lie about the country benefiting ‘beyond recognition’ from the proceeds of oil drilling on the lake if they want to although the country knows otherwise—the Burkinabe’s are exploiting their immense gold deposits but it has not stopped them from being poorer than Malawi!).
We know the ‘Peoples House’ has been by-passed or compromised (after getting their thirty million Malawi Kwacha ‘loans’ what further interest would they have in ‘serving and protecting’ constituents’ interests?) and the technocrats irrevocably besmirched but the people whose very livelihoods will be impacted by this immense decision must be allowed to speak on this weighty matter through a balanced and transparent referendum.
Contribution by: Chisala, M. L.