Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shortage of Everything

These are tough times. Everything—almost everything, indeed--seems to be going into the wrong direction.

Fuel is in acute shortage. Long queues as I have never seen in my life have become daily sight now. People just queue without knowing when fuel would be available. Call it faith—the belief in things unseen.

That is what I did today, sent a driver with a 180 litre prado to a service station where he spent the whole day and returned on an empty tank. No diesel has been delivered. A real crisis.

Power interruptions are order of the day—they are normal, actually. Mobile phone network is unreliable. Some cotton farmers still don’t know what to do with their crop. It has lost value and weight.

Foreign Exchange is not just there; no money to import essential commodities.

Tough times indeed! One wonders what is in second term for Mutharika. His first term in office was tough but a thorough analysis determines that the first term was tougher than this one. The challenges of the first term from 2004 to 2009 were local, and that is dangerous. Your own people are more dangerous than enemies from abroad. The problems now are international (although local to some understanding.)

The internal challenges needed internal solutions and that was tough. But the challenges facing Malawi now have got more to do with regional and international issues and one of them, least thought and which you might reject, is climate change.

What has climate change got to do with our challenges now? The first challenge Mutharika
inherited was food shortage, an acute one. We had erratic rains and hunger was part of life.

As a way forward, Mutharika introduced a subsidised fertilizer programme, hoping rains would come in time. Rains have generally been kind with us. Little did we think that erratic rains have more to do with climate change than anything else. So fertiliser depleted our hard earned forex and here we are without the scarce commodity.

Power interruptions can happen at three stages: at generation (hydro power stations), distribution and reception. Most of our interruptions are from low power generation, resulting into power rationing.

The main problem is with the water body that generates our electricity, the Shire River, which comes from Lake Malawi. (It is also important to know that 80 percent of rivers that feed Lake Malawi are from Mozambique and they are drying because of climate change.)

We have weeds that are a real nuisance to the Shire River. Once rains come and water washes weeds from Liwonde, down to Nkula, generation is hugely disturbed.

A thorough analysis can connect the weeds and unstable water levels to climate change. This is a weird theory, anyway, but climate change is responsible for the fast spread of HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS. It is up to you to read more. I just wanted to make a point.

We are all waiting for President Mutharika to address these issues. In the short term yes. But what about the long term? His conviction in managaing climate change is the answer. If the President can lead Malawi and the region in mitigating climate change, history shall remember him as someone who had a vision for this small yet beautiful country.

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