MERA, ESCOM Fueling Deforestation

MERA, ESCOM fueling deforestation

Thula Chisamba

The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) and Electricity cooperation of Malawi (ESCOM) has been warned that the frequent electricity tariff hikes will trigger deforestation in the country..

Effective 6th February, MERA announced a new price in electricity tariffs from 53.69 to 57.75 per kilowatt representing seven percent. According to MERA board chairperson Mr Dingiswayo Jere, the decision was made due to the instability of the Malawi Kwacha on the world market.

He said statistics already shows that only about 10 percent of the total national population have the access to this exorbitant electricity, thus with the frequent hikes the percentage may dwindle making most people to go back to old ways of relaying on trees as the only cheapest source of energy.

According to Environmental Expert Green Malunga, the environment is already in danger of extinction because most Malawians especially those In rural areas have no alternative but to rely on trees as the only source of energy.

“The hiking of tariffs will see many people fail to settle their electricity bills, consequently they will go back to using firewood instead of electricity cookers. This will likely betray our zeal as a nation to conserve environment,” said Malunga in an email to The Malawi Star.

Only a few days after MERA announced the electricity tariff hike, this publication has observed that residents in the three major cities have now switched from using electricity to charcoal as a source of energy for their cooking purposes.

charcoal for sale
Charcoal now the preferred cooking method – even among middle class

A scene of men stringing along bicycles heavily loaded with bags of charcoal has become a familiar sight especially in townships across the northern region’s main city of Mzuzu.

In an interview in the commercial city of Mzuzu, residents expressed worry over the new development.

Eunice Hara told told this publication that life is becoming expensive with the already depreciated kwacha. She added that her family does not feel wealthy enough to manage the current costs.

handful of kwachas
One of the world’s worst currencies

“Maybe I will be using electricity for lighting only because it is becoming unnecessarily exorbitant thus I believe a person of middle class like myself. It is pricey now to use electricity for any other purpose,” she said.

Another resident concurred the same views citing firewood and charcoal will now be on high demand because many Malawians will not manage to pay the electricity bills.

“We care less on whether they replant trees but what matters to us is buying the products from them for our home use and with this hike we will likely be buying many bags of charcoal from them,” she said.

However, one charcoal seller who spoke to our reporter confessed that most of them do not even have time to replant trees because after selling they go to their farms and cultivate some crops for sale and for food.

“In fact, these days, tree seedlings are for sale at very unaffordable prices that we cannot manage to buy as poor charcoal sellers thus after selling our bags of charcoal we go straight to our farms to practice some agriculture,” he said.

Meanwhile ESCOM and MERA have been advised to look at the impact the hike will cause on the environment. Malunga further cited that Electricity Generation depends on the environment especially water and trees.

“Electricity depends on water which without adequate supply of the same, they will not be able to produce electricity.  The must realize that the more people destroy the environment in search of cheaper energy, they affect the water cycle consequently there will be no rains making rivers dry. They may not know the source of water to produce their electricity,” added Malunga.

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