The Shire Valley Transformation Program (STVP), through the Department of Agriculture, has re-engaged the consultants who designed the irrigation canal water intake to carry out a damage assessment Tropical Cyclone Ana to redesign it to withstand any other future. forces of nature.
This was revealed on Sunday when Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe visited the project to assess the extent of the damage where it was assessed that the decision to re-engage the consultant had been taken in conjunction with STVP and engineers from the contractor Conduril; site consultant and the Ministry of Energy through the Electricity Generating Company of Malawi (EGENCO).
The collaborative assessments were also carried out in consultation with one of the project’s donors, the World Bank, whose representative – Joop Stoutjesdijk (Lead Irrigation and Drainage Specialist, Water Global Practice) – accompanied the Minister for the visit of the site.
Lowe was also accompanied by his deputy as well as Chairman of the Parliamentary Agriculture and Irrigation Committee Sameer Suleman (MP for Blantyre City South East) and delegations from the Ministry of Agriculture and District Councils.
The Minister was informed that the progress of the construction of the water intake and the first 6 km of the main canal (MC1) under construction by the contractor Conduril is currently at 61%, but it should have been at 81 % in December – which was delayed due to several challenges which included the CoVID-19 pandemic.
In his presentation, the project’s irrigation engineer, Martin Chizalema, told the minister that Cyclone Ana had affected construction work, leading to a temporary suspension of work on two affected parts – the water intake foundation and a siphon part 1.
He assured the delegation that all other canal structures are intact and so far more than 4 km of the canal has been lined with concrete with 2 of the 3 bridge crossings completed and work on bridge 3 completed. begin.
“One of the three siphons is under construction, the channel is complete and all 14 drainage works are complete,” Chizalema said.
“Work continues on the construction of the canal, including the third bridge over the 6 km route, including the excavation of the fish barrier and the remaining parts of the section. Animal escape routes, drainages along the maintenance road along the canal, protection works along the canal embankment will also be constructed.
The first part of the canal – the total distance of which is 52 km between the water intake of the Kapichira dam and the Lengwe national park – crosses the game reserve of Majete – as well as the bridges and the evacuation routes of the animals.
He said they had engaged EGENCO – as the owner of the Kapichira dam where the intake is being built – in discussions with the World Bank for possible refinancing of the design review to propose new detailed redesign options for the rehabilitation or complete construction of the works concerned. .
The floods breached the Kapichira Dam embankments which control the flow and direction of water from the Shire River as well as the STVP cofferdam which flooded the intake foundation.
The River Shire has completely redirected to its original course, breaking the intake and damaging a section of the 750 meter siphon which connects the intake and the main channel.
Construction of the intake structure was at the foundation stage with two superstructures yet to be completed of the forward wing walls. However, an incomplete wing wall was washed away.
Chizalema said all critical structures are intact, including the channel, siphon, culverts and main channel, which had a deadline for completion in March this year but has since been extended for another 12 months.
He also indicated that the contractor for the next stage of the 6 km section, Synohydro, was also involved in the collaborative evaluation process in the spirit of teamwork.
In his remarks, Joop Stoutjesdijk assured the minister that the World Bank is happy with the progress of the project despite all the challenges, saying that it is committed to continue supporting Malawi in this program for the tragedy that has resulted. floods and for the next phase.
“Conduril has done an excellent job and the second contractor is on site with their equipment ready,” he said.
“The flood damage here, I have to say, is a blessing in disguise that happened at the construction stage. It would have been much more disastrous and expensive to rebuild if the whole project had been completed and was in use.
“As the World Bank, we are ok with a better design which should be much more resilient so we need more time for the redesign. We have to accept that we will experience recurrent flooding which occurs due to environmental degradation of the watershed [in the upper lands].
“We need to adapt and make this project more resilient and needs more money, which the World Bank is ready to support.”
He urged the authorities to speed up the reconstruction of the Kapichira dam for the reconstruction of the water intake as well as the restoration of the 130 megawatts that the power station has lost – or 32% of the power of the national grid.
After assessment, EGENCO announced that it needs more than K18 billion to rebuild its compromised infrastructure and the first and most important part of the repair is the Kapichira Dam.
It is completely flooded with sand and its equipment destroyed and some washed away more than 14 km downstream and according to the damage assessment, it will take almost six months to repair.
As the floods became intense, EGENCO and its sister company ESCOM shut down their machinery and plunged the Southern Region and other parts of the country into blackout the very night of the severe storm that started in the evening from Monday 24 January to the following day.
Therefore EGENCO and ESCOM are rationing the power supply due to the loss of 130 megawatts while the Shire Valley program has engaged the power generator since the rebuilding of the socket will need to have the Shire under control until its course in power plant generation infrastructure.
Lowe said Chairman Lazarus Chakwera has all the passion “to get this project completed on time and cannot afford to see it stalled.”
“That’s why he sent me here with our chairman of the parliamentary committee on agriculture and irrigation. I have to say I’m very heartened by the quick steps that have been taken to get him back on track – giving him some hope of bringing him back to life.
“Thus, we agree with you on the extension of the completion period and there is no room for complacency – we must move forward with the new design which should indeed withstand all other forces of nature.
“Once the Shire is redirected, we must ensure that it never returns to its original course and, in terms of the compromised watershed and the effects of climate change, must be seriously refocused through a public awareness campaign against the free felling of trees without replacing them. to manage the watershed which is highly compromised,” he said.
Suleman assured the minister and all the stakeholders of the irrigation canal that the parliament will do its best to factor the reconstruction of the inflow into the national budget which the august House is already ready to debate.
“It’s sad that we’re here to visit damage instead of progress, but it’s opened our eyes to the fact that in our plans we need to design better structures that should stand the test of nature. of this magnitude.
“I must also applaud the Shire Valley Transformation Program and its contractor and consultants for the 61% progress on the challenges which included CoVID-19 – that is good progress.
“We MPs support this project for the benefit of Malawians in the Lower Shire and we will certainly settle anything that comes to parliament from the programme,” Suleman assured.
Excavation and clearing of the 6-46km canal route to Lengwe National Park is currently underway and commenced in November 2021 while construction works of the remainder of Main Canal 1 and part of the canal Main 2 continues after Cyclone Ana.
The Shire Valley Transformation Program was launched in March 2020 by former President Peter Mutharika, whose objective is for Malawi to increase agricultural productivity and commercialization for targeted households along the Shire Valley. Shire and improve the sustainable management and use of natural resources.
The canal is to irrigate 43,700 hectares of land in the valley for more than 223,000 people (according to the 2016 census), including areas under Illovo Sugar, Phata, Kasinthula and all cooperatives with irrigable areas, especially on the side east of the channel.
Follow and subscribe to Nyasa TV: