This was our last full day in the North – we travel to Lilongwe tomorrow for John to head home and for me to attend a wide range of meetings over the next few days.
The plan was to witness the commissioning of the hydro scheme and water systems at Tapukwa today and there’s been a huge amount of work completed in the last few days. The hydro turbine is in-situ and ready to go and the filter tanks and UV filter are installed, all ready for testing.
The filter tank is over 6m long and had to be filled with layers of stones, gravel and sharp sand. Our truck has been busy making regular trips to Lake Malawi (about 50 miles away) to collect all this material which then had to be carried up the hill.
The ultra violet filter system was then fitted in our specially built filter house, all ready to deliver clean drinking water to over 800 people.
Meantime, local engineer Hastings Makandawire has fitted the hydro electric system which will power the new Community Resource Centre and charge batteries for household lighting and phone charging.
So you can imagine the excitement today when we opened the valves at the weir and waited for the water to travel 1.4km around the hill to get to the huge Forebay Tank at the top of the scheme. We waited. And waited. And waited some more. But no water. The problem was quickly identified as a joint in the pipe which hadn’t been sealed properly so the digging began.
By this stage it was already after 3pm and we had a long journey back so we had to admit that we weren’t going to see the water flowing today.
John has spent the evening writing detailed instructions for the contractor and staff to enable them to finish the job and he will be able to continue advising from Turriff using WhatsApp. Once the filters are in use, samples will be taken to Mzuzu University for analysis and we will be able to see a huge improvement compared with the analysis we did on the river water two years ago.
The work has moved on so fast in the last 10 days and we are very close to completion. It is slightly disappointing not to see the water flowing at this point but our role is to encourage and empower the local people, so it is quite fitting that they see the project through this final stage.
As we left Tapukwa today, it was touching and humbling to hear so many people saying “thank you” because they now believe that the miracle of power and clean water is actually happening. It was really a thank you to the Scottish Government who have funded this amazing project; to Strathclyde University who helped with the design work; and to all the Malawi Fruit’s supporters who have stood with us over the years. Together we can do so much more of this stuff….