In a bid to realise the potential of its mining and resource extraction sector, the Southern Africa country of Malawi is sacrificing the health of its people for want of revenue, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
Titled, They Destroyed Everything’: Mining and Human Rights in Malawi, the report analyses the impact of extractive industries on communities in Karonga, a district located on the north-western shores of Lake Malawi.
In the report, Human Rights Watch laments the fact that the Malawi government has ignored its obligation to protect the rights and livelihoods of communities in coal and uranium mining areas. It says families, who are oblivious of the health and other risks, face serious problems with water, food and housing.
While it acknowledges the urgent need for Malawi to diversify its agrobased economy, Human Rights Watch calls for the need to protect the vulnerable communities in the vicinity of mining operations.
“The Malawi government has promoted private investment in mining and resource extraction to diversify its economy. But environmental risks are common in resource extraction and mining significantly contributes to climate change, which in turn affects governments’ ability to realise the rights to health, water, and food,” the report warns.
“Malawi shouldn’t repeat the mistakes made in resource extraction in other countries in Southern Africa,” said Katharina Rall, researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It is not enough to create a fertile investment climate for mining companies. The government urgently needs to protect the rights of affected communities.”
To arrive at the findings, the Human Rights Watch conducted research for a year – from July 2015 to July 2016,. 150 interviews, 78 of which were with people living in areas where companies are actively mining or had mining operations in the recent past were conducted. Human Rights Watch also interviewed representatives of the companies; the central, regional, and local governments, national and international non-governmental organisations; and international organisations.