Lilongwe River Revitalization Plan

Lilongwe, Malawi


The Lilongwe River provides essential ecosystem services to the city of Lilongwe and the people of Malawi. The recent expansion of the Tsoka and Lizulu Markets in the historic centre of the capital has caused the ecological degradation and pollution of the River environment. ICLEI Africa appointed Square One to engage the local community and prepare a River Revitalization Plan for the Market area as part of the UNA Rivers for Life Project.

The design aims to create a cohesive master plan for the River, with the aim of gaining economic, ecological and social benefits for the local community. The plan incorporates numerous ecological design initiatives to rehabilitate the degraded river embankments and encourage the productive and sustainable use of this invaluable natural resource. Design interventions are aimed at employing easily constructible systems that are cost effective and labour intensive, thereby ensuring economic efficiency while supporting local livelihoods. Detailed design interventions were developed using modular, low-cost and labour intensive construction methods. Individual structures are designed to perform a number of functions, thereby enhancing usability and reducing expenditure.

The productive use of the land is encouraged through creating spaces for floricultural initiatives on fertile embankments. The flood control capacity of the river is regenerated through indigenous vegetation rehabilitation and the implementation of the Vetiver planting system. Sanitation initiatives to improve human health are supported by implementing composting toilets that recycle nutrients and provide an income for local communities while improving soil conditions to support agriculture and food security. Critical water points are provided to allow access to safe water sources for ablutions and consumption, thereby reducing direct pressure on the riverine environment.

The provision of green infrastructure forms an essential component of the revitalization plan and major interventions focus on removing waste accumulated on degraded embankments and creating terraced walkway structures along the River. An integrated system of pathways, entrance structures and directional signage is created to enhance legibility and create a sense of identity. Public art is incorporated into design interventions to encourage civic pride and community engagement. The plan includes for the engagement of local schools and communities, particularly vulnerable women’s groups in composting and waste recycling initiatives, with the aim of generating sustainable incomes and livelihoods.