A $500-million mega water project for Malawi

A Tesmec Trencher, able to dig 2km per day of trenches for laying pipes. (Photo: Madelene Cronjé)

A Tesmec Trencher, able to dig 2km per day of trenches for laying pipes. (Photo: Madelene Cronjé)

A new day is dawning for the people of Malawi with a multimillion dollar project to pipe water from Lake Malawi to Lilongwe, the capital city.

The project which is set to stimulate the economy and create vibrant, equitable and sustainable communities in the country with 17 million people and which is also known as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’.

Simbi Phiri, chairman of Khato Civils and South Zambezi confirmed that his companies were the successful bidders in the open tender process for the project that will pump over 50 million litres of water a day from Lake Malawi to Lilongwe.

An estimated 4 000 jobs will be created in the duration of the project. Most of the employment opportunities will be in auxiliary services to complement the core personnel of Khato Civils and South Zambezi.

There will be a lot of quarrying, and the project will need heavy machine operators, drivers, engineers, welders and those who will be involved in rebar and mortar construction.

The project entails a steel pipeline that stretches over 130 km and will have three big pump stations to ensure that there are no bottlenecks in the flow of water to the capital. It also features a water treatment plant and three reservoirs in Lilongwe.

Khato Civils has invested in two cutting-edge Tesmec Trenchers able to dig 2km per day of trenches for laying pipes. Each of the Tesmec Trenchers is worth about $2-million (R26-million) each.

“We are excited about the project and will deliver the best value to the people of Malawi. We continue to make sure as a company that we invest in the best equipment, latest technology and innovation to deliver the best quality projects in an environmentally sustainable manner.”

Phiri explained that the project would improve the lives of millions of people, not only in Malawi but the whole region. He said such a massive infrastructural project would open up investment opportunities.

“All aspects of our lives are dependent on water. As we have done in other countries in which we operate across the Southern Africa region we are creating conditions for millions of people to have adequate drinking water and good sanitation which are important elements to human life,” Phiri said.

He sees the project as a springboard for transformation in a country, which like many developing countries faces serious challenges in terms of coping with chronic water shortages and the inadequacies of their existing water infrastructure.

“This ground-breaking project will be catalyst for growth as it not only will improve drinking water sanitation, hygiene and waste water management. It will see the growth of industries and the manufacturing sector leading in the growth of new towns. This will also drive growth in foreign direct investment since many companies consider water resources when making decisions about where to invest or locate their facilities,” Phiri said.

In another matter, Phiri emphasised that there was great benefit to be derived from encouraging the continent’s construction and engineering companies to strengthen collaboration and the sharing of skills, knowledge and resources if Africa is to achieve its goals for infrastructure development and dealing with skills shortages.

“No country has ever developed by using exclusively its own engineers. Skills should be drawn from the whole world. In some instances, engineers are engaged on a needs basis.”

He said the industry should also double its efforts in encouraging young people to take up engineering as a viable career option; by unpacking the wealth of opportunities the sector has to offer.

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