Poverty, Drought and Felled Trees Imperil Malawi Water Supply
DZALANYAMA FOREST RESERVE, Malawi – Out of desperation, soldiers were dispatched to the national forest here last year to defend the capital, Lilongwe, less than 30 miles away. Their mission was not to save it from an invading force, but to keep water flowing to its taps.
For years, wood charcoal burners had been destroying this forest, the catchment basin for the Lilongwe River, the source of the capital’s water. Fewer trees mean the ground is less able to absorb water in the rainy season and gradually surrender it the rest of the year. With the supply reaching the capital dwindling and increasingly turbid, and with the El Niño drought spreading across Malawi and the rest of southern Africa, the capital was under imminent threat.
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