Monday, July 22, 2013

Dust in Blantyre

Blantyre is becoming Malawi’s second dusty city after Lilongwe. The challenge is that no one is talking about dust in Blantyre, Malawi’s oldest city.

Yet dust is all over, visible and touchable, in the city. Even outside the city, as far as Chileka, Nguludi and Mapanga, dust is becoming a daily occurrence. Those who have lived long in Blantyre can testify.   

Blantyre, once a symbol of Malawi’s small but growing manufacturing industry, cherished mountains covered with green carpets of tree tops. Soche Hill was all green. So, too, Ndirande Mountain.  
Such was the Blantyre I found in 1991 after a year in Lilongwe. But now Ndirande Mountain is bare. Soche Hill has a few trees on the very top and houses below.

Houses are all over where once were written the words “Long live Kamuzu” on Soche Hill. The fall of first president Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda was also the fall of trees in Blantyre.

Over two decades ago, Blantyre residents used to mock Lilongwe for its dust. It was a relief for everyone to move from Lilongwe to Blantyre. Then, there was no dust in Blantyre. Now, a little over two decades later, I see Blantyre becoming dusty, slowly but for sure.

It could be climate change. But it could also be that we have cut trees. Or both and, of course, other reasons.

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