Navigation on Mozambique’s Chire and Zambeze rivers depends on feasibility study

27 October 2010

Maputo, Mozambique, 27 Oct – Navigation on the Chire and Zambeze rivers to transport merchandise to and from Malawi and Zambia can only take place after an economic feasibility study that also assesses environmental aspects, Mozambican Foreign and Cooperation Minister Oldemiro Baloi said on Tuesday in Maputo.

In the government’s first reaction to recent incidents affecting navigation on those rivers, Baloi said that Mozambique’s position had already been reaffirmed at the 11th session of the Mozambique/Malawi Joint Commission. The most recent incident occurred only last week, when boats from Malawi forcibly attempted to navigate.

Baloi stated that in 2007 Malawi began restoring some infrastructures linked to the project without the required feasibility study, specifically the Blantyre-Nsanje road and the related opening of a port.

“This was followed by incidents with boats aiming to show that a feasibility study was not necessary. We clearly distinguish between feasibility and possibility, which is different. We can’t talk about the importance of the environment and climate change at one moment and then ignore them in fundamental aspects,” he said.

Baloi emphasised that Mozambique was not ready for a project that takes shortcuts meant to avoid fundamental stages in the process.

The feasibility study project dates to 2005 and arose from the need for Malawi and Zambia to access the Indian Ocean via the Chire and Zambeze rivers, to channel their imports and exports.

A preliminary viability report on the project, presented by the Malawian government in 2006, was deemed inconclusive. This led the parties, including Zambia, to recommend a more thorough and detailed feasibility study.

The governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia hence signed a memorandum of understanding on 25 April 2007 in Lilongwe, Malawi. The Zimbabwean Zambezi River Transport Company (Zartco) was then hired to conduct the study.

Mozambique withdrew from the memorandum of understanding two months later, alleging that the tender-winning company was unreliable, as it did not have the offices in southern African countries it had claimed. (macauhub)