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The National Water Resources Authority (NWRA) has cautioned developers to desist from constructing along the Lake Malawi buffer Zone saying water levels in the lake are rising and such structures might be at risk.
In an interview, Director of water resources management and Development, Engineer Tony Nyasulu, said water levels in Lake Malawi were at 474.42 metres above sea level (masl) as of December 31, 2022. This was 47.5cm higher than on the same date the previous year.
He said: “Hydrology repeats itself. What happened 20 years ago might still happen again. This means that initially in the past, the lake levels were like that but we had some challenges in between and the lake levels were not picking up as they ought to have been.”
Nyasulu further said it is against the law to carry out construction or agricultural activities below the 477masl contour line along Lake Malawi (Water Resources Regulations Section 129, sub section 3) adding that it is very likely that those that have activities below 477masl will be negatively affected by this continued increase in water levels this hydrological year.
The country started experiencing low water levels in 2011 but the situation is changing due to good rains and the regulation of the flow of the Shire River at Liwonde Barrage.
This year. the lake water levels are taking the highest trajectory since 2010 and according to Nyasulu, the continued increase would mean that the country has adequate reserves of water resources for adequate generation of hydropower, irrigation, navigation and recreation among others.
Commenting on the development, Civil Society Network on Climate Change (Cisonec) National Coordinator Julius Ngoma called on authorities to utilise the new trends in Lake Malawi to promote water harvesting for use in the dry season.
“This is a good opportunity for the country’s economy as it will improve the breeding of the fish, and supply of water to the Shire River for hydropower production. One key thing is to harvest the water for irrigation and other livelihood purposes in the future,” he said.
In the 2021-22 hydrological year, the lake levels were at 475.31 metres above sea level (masl). The authority notes that there has been a steady increase in lake levels since 2017.