Police recover stolen steel bars from Shire Valley transformation project construction site

During a patrol exercise along the road leading to the Kapichira construction site for the Shire Valley Transformation Project, police officers from Chikwawa stopped a vehicle and discovered it was loaded with metal bars assorted building application.

A report by Chikwawa Police Station Public Relations Officer Sergeant Dickson Matemba said another vehicle was seized a day later and a suspect linked to the case has since been arrested.

Sergeant Matemba reports that the first vehicle was spotted coming from the direction of the construction site of the World Bank-funded government project – so police suspected the metal bars had been stolen from the contractor, Conduril Construction Limited.

The second vehicle seized the next day

The report identifies the suspect as Navaya Mainato (45), from Nthukuso Village, Malemia Traditional Authority in Nsanje District and he and an escaped accomplice were driving a Probox vehicle registration number RU9956.

When the owner escaped leaving the driver behind, police – who were on routine patrol along this stretch – arrested the driver and impounded the vehicle.

Police followed up the next day by visiting the scene where they intercepted the vehicle with the driver of the Probox, who spotted and identified his main accomplice connected to the metal bars – who was coincidentally in another registration number of motor vehicle BW3173.

The metal rods as packed in the Probox vehicle

Sergeant Matemba reports that the police patrol intercepted this second vehicle and upon searching it they discovered that it was carrying other similar construction control metal bars.

The driver was arrested and admitted to having also been involved in the theft of the metals intercepted by the police the day before.

Sergeant Matemba said the two vehicles are being guarded at Chikwawa Police Station as further investigations into the matter have been opened to arrest other perpetrators.

“The district police are providing the public with enhanced security from all government projects in the district,” Sergeant Matemba said in his report.

Sources in Chikwawa say the theft of construction materials is rampant at the site, most of which go unreported as they are carried out in collusion with staff members who include its security details.

But alerted by the contractor, the police intensified their patrol along Kapichira Road which led to the two arrests.

The objective of the Shire Valley Transformation Program – which was launched in March 2020 by former President Peter Mutharika – is for Malawi to increase agricultural productivity and commercialization for targeted households along the Shire Valley. the Shire and improves the sustainable management and use of natural resources.

The project aims to provide access to reliable gravity irrigation and drainage services, secure land tenure for smallholder farmers and strengthen the management of wetlands and protected areas in the Shire Valley.

However, the project was severely compromised due to Tropical Cyclone Ana in January when its construction of the 12-gate water intake was washed away by heavy flooding.

During a visit to the site two weeks later to assess the extent of the damage, Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe learned that the project management – in partnership with donors, the World Bank and other development partners – had re-engaged the consultants to redesign the water intake of the irrigation canal to withstand any further future forces of nature.

The redesign process includes working with the Ministry of Energy through the Electricity Generating Company of Malawi (EGENCO) – whose Kapichira dam was overloaded and therefore broke and compromised the construction of the intake Please.

Progress on the construction of the water intake and the first 6 km of the main canal was 61%, but it should have been 81% in December – which was delayed due to several challenges, including the pandemic of Covid-19.

In his presentation, the project’s irrigation engineer, Martin Chizalema, told the minister that Cyclone Ana had affected construction, leading to a temporary suspension of work on two affected parts – the water intake foundation and part siphon 1.

He assured that the canal is intact and that so far more than 4 kms of which have been lined with concrete with 2 of the 3 bridge crossings completed and work on bridge 3 has started as well as that of the three siphons.

“The canal is complete and all 14 drainage works are complete,” Chizalema said. “Work is continuing 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.

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.

During his visit to the site in December 2020, Vice President Saulos Chilima, who is also the minister responsible for economic planning and development, said that the irrigation project is in line with the development program MW2063.

“One of the pillars of Agenda 2063 talks about the commercialization of agriculture, and the other talks about industry,” he told accompanying media. “This project aims to transform smallholder farmers into commercial farmers, which is good, not just for the Lower Shire but for the country as a whole.”

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.

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Alice F. Ponder