The 200-kilometre long Songwe River with a 4,200 – square kilometre fertile basin, is an important source of livelihood to 52,000 people of both countries.
However, the river changes its course as it meanders towards Lake Nyasa when it floods – pouring its water which dislocates the common border.
It also disrupts nearly 15,000 hectares of various farm produce and other sources of livelihood, Minister for Water and Irrigation Development Prof Mark Mwandosya noted, when tabling the budget estimates for 2009/10 fiscal year this week.
Under the programme, Tanzania and Malawi governments, would undertake development and management of water resources, development of infrastructure along the basin and development management of land resources.
Other tasks are environmental conservation along the basin and development of institutions to oversee implementation and management of the programme.
Without giving an exact timeline, Mwandosya said the assessment of the project would take two years at a cost of $11m, with each country contributing $1.1m and the African Development Bank (ADB) injecting $9.9million.
However, the minister did not disclose how the $400m needed to complete the project would be raised.
Meanwhile, on River Nile Basin, Mwandosya said all the countries concerned except Egypt and Sudan agreed on sharing the water resources.
Until now 38 out of 39 articles of the proposed agreement have been agreed by all states.
Article 39th of the agreement which states water security and equal use of water resources of the Nile has been protested by Egypt and Sudan, said the minister.
A month ago a Tanzanian delegation to a conference on Nile waters reported of bitter reaction from Egyptians over Tanzanias decision to draw water to Shinyanga from Lake Victoria, which is a source of River Nile.
Deputy Speaker Anne Makinda who was on that delegation said, the Egyptian minister for water could visit Tanzania any time to express their anger over the Kahama and Shinyanga water project.
Six years ago, at a meeting in Egypt, a similar war of words emerged between Egyptian water minister and some East African counterparts after failing to agree on the usage of Nile water.
Nile Water Pact which is in force was signed during the colonial era in 1929, giving Egypt and Sudan exclusive right to the use of water.
Now all the Nile River countries want a new pact on conserving the water basin, manage the river and using it.
Guardian on SundayPost published in: Economy