Malawi: The Salima Solar project still to address concerns of citizens argues blogger
Author: Elias Jika, International Accountability Project (Malawi), Published on: 4 September 2019
‘Concerns Unaddressed, Communities in Malawi Continue Campaign on the Salima Solar Project’ 22 July 2019
I first learned of the Salima Solar Project in September 2018, when local media reported that the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), the state-owned power utility company, had signed MOUs with two private companies. Looking for any potential involvement by international finance institutions, I immediately searched for the project in the Early Warning System database and then online, but I could not find any documented involvement by them yet. As a concerned Malawian citizen and a human rights activist who has witnessed the kind of adverse impacts development projects might have on the surrounding communities, I further researched the practices and any human and environmental rights violations of JCM Matswani Solar Limited, JCM Power Corporation Limited and all other associated companies reportedly involved.
The Salima Solar Project involves the construction and operation of a 60 MW solar photovoltaic plant in Salima District, Malawi. The project includes the construction of transformers, associated cabling, access roads, a maintenance area, storage, temporary hostels and offices. The project will require 225 hectares of land, which has already resulted in the acquisition of land and relocation of people living near the project site. JCM Power Corporation, a private company, is responsible for developing, constructing and operating the project. The company has reportedly been buying land from affected communities since 2016…The project promises many positive impacts, such as improving the country’s electricity capacity and generating employment. Nonetheless, the project site is located on existing farmlands, which means land will be acquired and people relocated away from their homes and farmlands. Site clearing began in December 2018 and construction is expected to be completed by October 2019.
One individual has been relocated to make way for the project, but additional relocations are expected…Solar and other clean energy projects can also be destructive in their own right, when one looks at the impacts they have on the affected communities. For instance, the Salima Solar project has already resulted in the acquisition of land and will result in the resettlement of project affected persons. Land acquisition can lead to a change in how the land is used, which can negatively affect agrarian activities and food supply. It can also precipitate conflicts if the resettlement area does not provide for the continuation of livelihood activities like livestock grazing. The Salima Solar Project’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report states that the communities will not be allowed access to graze their animals in the area of land acquired for the transmission lines.