Water transport problems caused by dried up lake ports in land-locked Malawi have long exercised economists and environmentalists alike but evaded the attention of the authorities for years.
Now the authorities in Malawi have suddenly realised that their concerns were not just about crying wolf.
The drying up of Malawi’s lake ports in the central and northern regions of the country are threatening the future of the country’s water transport, said Transport and Public Works Minister Ralph Jooma on Tuesday, 17 September 2019.
According to the ministry, the drying up of Chipoka and Chilumba ports in the central district of Salima and the northern district of Karonga, respectively, comes at a time the government had plans to shift its overreliance on road transport to water and rail transports as contained in the country’s National Transport Master Plan.
Jooma said that his government was working to find ways to revive the two ports.
The two harbours were critical to the country’s transport sector as they were strategically positioned to receive cargo from ships plying the 450km-long lake shared with Tanzania and Mozambique.
“Through the master plan, we will be engaging into heavy projects that will revive our ports. At the moment, we are mobilising resources to help us to revive the two ports so that we can recommence using them” Jooma said.
Chipoka as a port is well interfaced with both railway and road transport, a fact which Jooma said will make it easy to transport cargo there bound for any other mode of transport.
According to the Malawi Government 2019 Annual Economic Report released last week, the water transport sub-sector has continued to perform below expectations for many years despite its potential to contribute to economic growth.
The report said challenges contributing to poor performance of the sub-sector included climate change, inadequate personnel and funding and inappropriate law enforcement.
The 9.5 billion-dollar National Transport Master Plan to be implemented between 2017 and 2037 covers all transport sub-sectors.