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SMC Infra bags water supply project in Malawi

New Delhi : Thane-based infrastructure developer SMC Infrastructure Private Limited has bagged a major project in Malawi that has been financed by a $23 million loan from the Export and Import (Exim) Bank of India even as several Indian companies are looking for water projects in nearby Kenya.

The Malawi project has been secured by SMC Infrastructure from the Blantyre Water Board (BWB). The Board had shortlisted four bidders for the project to tap water from the Likhubula River on Mulanje Mountain to the city, the country’s commercial capital. The other three companies in fray for the project were a joint venture of WPIL and SMS Paryavaran, Megha Engineering & Infrastructure and Technafab Engineering.

The project scope includes construction of an intake structure on the Likhubula river; laying of a 50 km pipeline from the river to Nguludi, which is close to Blantyre. It will also include construction of a storage tank at Mpingwe Hill, in the city and the laying of supply mains from the storage tank to two locations in Blantyre.

BWB Chief Executive Officer Henri Bakuwa was quoted as saying in local news reports that the design of the contract allows for 15 per cent subcontracting locally and it is expected that the Indian company will partner with local contractors and people within the surrounding districts will also gain employment.

The project is aimed at curbing water shortages in Blantyre as the city witnesses increasing demand caused by rapid population growth. The project is also expected to go a long way in assisting to reduce exorbitant electricity costs, since the system will be operated through the raw water transmission mains.

According to news reports, it is expected that the new water source at Mulanje will provide an additional 20000m3, while the one along the Shire River will produce about 120,000m3. This will be in addition to an already existing capacity of 96,000m3 from Walkers Ferry, which will improve efficiency of water supply as well as its sustainability as all the water sources are from reliable perennial rivers.

Industry official said SMC Infrastructure Pvt Ltd is also looking for similar projects in water supply and management in other African countries, as also a host of mid-sized Indian water infrastructure developers.

Kenya is expected to provide several opportunities as the Government in the east African country looks to meet the water demand-supply deficit in several areas in coming years.

Kenya's Water and Irrigation Principal Secretary Fred Segor was quoted as saying that the country currently has 124 million cubic litre of water against the requirement of 3.5 billion cubic litre. The deficit is planned to be resolved in the next 10 years.

“The funds (Sh100 billion per year) will go towards robust water projects to address the shortage, mitigate against effects of drought and boost food security,” said Segor, adding that the Water Ministry is keen to boost water storage capacity through channelling of funds to mega-dams and boreholes and mapping underground sources.

“Water availability is still low, with most of it going to waste. The India Ocean is full of water and doesn’t require more. We need to harvest this water,” said Segor.

“We are focusing on groundwater mapping. Underground water is very important. Already, we have established two aquifers in Turkana County, one salty and the other fresh. Studies are ongoing to isolate the salty one,” he added.

Industry officials said the Kenyan Government is also expected to approach the Indian Government for a line of credit to be extended through the Exim Bank of India for undertaking water infrastructure projects in the country.

Recently, India's leading water and wastewater management company VA tech Wabag had identified Africa, along with Latin America, as a hot-bed of opportunities.

VA Tech Wabag Managing Director & Group CEO Rajiv Mittal had said the company would "significantly enhance its presence in Africa followed by Latin America over the next five-year period".

Wabag is a market leader in North Africa and will now get into sub-Saharan Africa backed by its strong presence in the region, including West Asia, Mittal was quoted as saying.

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