Renowned writer and social commentator Stanley Onjezani Kenani has advised Malawi government to choose one thing between a project to tap water from Lake Malawi or oil drilling.
This is coming at a time when government has embarked on a USD500 million project to tap water from Lake Malawi in order to ease water problems in the city of Lilongwe and surrounding areas.
Ironically, government has also insisted that it will go ahead with plans to drill oil on Lake Malawi.
Speaking to Malawi24, Onjezani Kenani said Malawi should choose one thing between the two projects.
“Do we want to drink water from Lake Malawi? Then perhaps we should forget about oil. We cannot have it both ways,” said Kenani.
He added that an oil spill could render the water unusable for consumption purposes as oil kills water bodies. The social commentator also clashed claims by some quarters that there will be a way of avoiding an oil spill.
“I hear some funny arguments, we will use the latest drilling technology that does not result in any oil spill, really? Isn’t that laughable? Do you manufacture the drilling technology yourself? America, the most advanced economy on earth does not have such technology,” argued Kenani.
He then mentioned the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 years ago as an example of how oil drilling can go wrong, even for technologically advanced countries.
He further warned that there is no way people can be drinking water from Lake Malawi while at the same time oil is being drilled from the same lake.
“I once visited Azerbaijan, I saw that the Caspian Sea is dead because countries have been drilling oil in it, the water is still there but you cannot drink it, and you cannot even dip your foot in it,” he said.
On the project to tap water from Salima to Lilongwe, Kenani said the impact the lake has on hydroelectric power generation is immense hence environment and social impact assessment is needed to assess whether diverting water from the lake could have an impact on the Nkula plants.
Kenani further said that studies show that the lake shoreline is receding and no one knows the impact siphoning 50 million litres per day to Lilongwe will have on it.
”Lakes die, by the way, Lake Chad is dead, Lake Chirwa is dying and this is why we need to study these things carefully before embarking on mega projects of this nature,” he said.
On the Lake Malawi wrangle, Kenani said Tanzania does not have any right to claim that a part of the Lake Malawi is theirs suggesting that Mozambique is the only country which can lay claim to a part of the lake.
The commentator however reminded Malawi government that whichever project it decides to implement on the lake, Malawi’s neighbour might take action and spoil everything.
He said: ”Whatever we do, we should bear in mind that our neighbour might take action and spoil everything, if we are not careful. This is why we must not do things in a hasty manner. We need to study everything carefully, consult as many stakeholders as possible then proceed to implement the project.”