By Bester Kayaye
Environmental enthusiasts are planning to unleash the recreational potential of the Mudi river and its catchment area.
Inspired to restore the ecosystems across Blantyre city, environmentalists under the Mudi River Clean-up 2021 project have launched the 2021/22 tree planting season with combined zeal to plant ten thousand trees along the Mudi riverline.
Manota Mphande of Art Malawi (ARTMAL) and his partner Chris Walker of PaNthunzi Eco Solutions say they are committed to realise their joint vision to give Mudi river and its catchment area an environmental face lift that will offer city residents and visitors recreation activities.
The Mudi river and its tributaries are the source of water for the Mudi dam, which supplies treated water for domestic and industrial use in the city. Its catchment area covers approximately 890 hectares (8.9 sq kilometres) land from the spillway of the dam to the now-degraded Ndirande Mountain Forest Reserve, all the way to Makhetha, Maoni Park, up to the Blantyre/Zomba road.
However, poor cultivation practices along the river buffer zone and high deforestation rates have contributed to soil erosion leading to land and water quality degradation.
Studies further indicate that the sharp increase in urbanization combined with the high levels of erosion relate to the deterioration of the water quality along the Mudi River.
Sewage from blocked sewer lines, solid waste dumped along the banks, agricultural activities and domestic water uses such as washing and bathing along the river all contribute to the degradation of both the environment and water quality.
Chris Walker told Mining and Trade Review that the project identified the tree planting drive as a key component in revitalizing the Mudi river catchment area’s lost glory and restoring the ‘green’ beauty of the city of Blantyre as a business and tourist entry point into the country.
The Mudi catchment area was once famed for recreational activities such as camping, picnicking, fishing, boating, canoeing, sailing and swimming.
“Tree planting exercise will help restore the vegetative cover, ensure clean air and fresh and unpolluted water,” he said explaining that the project will embark on a mindset change campaign to orient people on better ways to interact with the environment such as in the management of solid and liquid waste, which mostly end in burning the vegetative cover or polluting the river.
He emphasized how critical the Mudi River ecosystem is to the preservation of the health and energy of the city’s residents as much as it is in preserving the beauty and freshness of tourist attraction spots such as Majete Wildlife Reserve and Elephant Marsh, whose lifeline are in part conserved by the Shire River, where Mudi river flows into.
According to Walker, river-borne waste from Blantyre City also contributes to oceanic pollution since the Shire River empties into the great Zambezi River which drains into the Indian ocean.
“it is, therefore, important to treat Mudi River against solid waste and liquid pollution as Blantyre is a key entry point for international and domestic business tourism,” he said
The Mudi River Clean-up project receives financial support from GIZ under the More Income and Employment in Rural Areas (MIERA), and has managed to provide temporary employment to over 120 personnel ranging from river cleaners, supervisors, wood carvers, stone sculptors, metal artists and many more.
So far, 35 tonnes of solid waste have been removed from a stretch of approximately 2.5km on the confluence with Nansolo River along the riverline from the Clock Tower Roundabout through Blantyre Market and Blantyre Sports Club.
Councilor for Blantyre City Central Ward, Chidika Nyumba, commended the project for the positive strides in keeping Blantyre clean and green.
He said the initiative compliments efforts by the City Council, which will be planting about 50,000 trees in this year’s tree planting season.
Business Computer Services (BCS) Managing Director, James Chimwaza, co-sponsor of the tree planting initiative called for collaborative efforts in shaping outlook of city to attract more trade and investment into the commercial city.