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Over 74 households in Malawi’s southern district of Chikhwawa have become “refugees” of climate change due to flash flooding, forcing them to up sticks and move home in an attempt to survive.

By Mathews Malata, Malawi

Residents of Ntombosola village, located about 100 kilometres from the commercial hub of Blantyre, have been forced to relocate over the past few years due to heavy flooding in southern Malawi.

“Initially, our houses were constructed a few metres away from the Mwanza river. In 2005 we experienced heavy flooding which forced us to move upland,” explains Mrs Soko a resident from the village. “Since we went upland, we have had problems accessing water, a situation that has made us to return to our original base," she adds. 

The head of the village, Chief Ntombosola, explains that he had no option but to listen to people’s wishes to return to their former dwelling place which is also prone to flooding: “I am aware of the dangers we may face. If worst comes to worst we will move our houses to the nearby hill. We think this is a better move than keeping people upland where it is harder to survive."

Drinking water
Many women in the area, including those who are pregnant, have no option but to wake up as early as 3am to make the long treck to fetch water.

"I think we are better here than when we were upland. It was horrible. We know climate change has made things worse - the weather was normal when we were children,” recalls Grace Molele, mother of three.

“It was very difficult," explains resident Gabriel Jameson. "We could spend a week or so without washing, it was a very terrible situation.”

Chief Ntombosola adds that the village transfer was done with the approval of the local authorities who tried to improve the situation through the drilling of a water borehole. Much to the disappointment of local residents, the well has since gone dry and so the struggle for water continues.

Forestry policies
Dr Weston Mwase an expert in forestry at Bunda college of Agriculture attributes the genesis of the problem to weak policies governing Malawi's forestry sector. He believes that deforestation has contributed to increased flooding levels in the region because the land can no longer hold water.

”We need policies that can help rectify the damage to our forests otherwise we are heading for a national disaster," says Mwase.

Malawi currently has 110,000 hectares of forest plantations, 82% of which belongs to the government.

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Comment by Rina Mukherji on April 12, 2012 at 13:52

This is sad. However, in India, communities are coming together to probe into ways and means to work out around climate change and a rising sea level which threatens us  the most. Here is a link to an article of mine that has just been published in ECO magazine:

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