The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) says construction of new service stations will now undergo tough scrutiny as one way of ensuring safety and quality service delivery from filling stations in the country.
This follows the implementation of new laws in liquid, fuels and gas that mandate MERA to inspect sites earmarked for construction of filling stations which are now referred as service stations.
The new law only allows construction of a service station within one kilometer of an existing service station, one hundred meters away from a public institution or 50 meters from a residential area.
Previously, people would identify their own preferential sites and construct filling stations without following proper procedures and standards and only engaged MERA in applying for business licenses.
MERA Director of liquid fuels and gas Alinafe Mkavea said the absence of proper procedures backed by a legal framework resulted in unnecessary construction of filling stations which posed elevated risks like loss of lives and properties in cases of accident.
“The previous scenario of setting up filling stations had many risks because it did not provide for checks in standards and safety because MERA was not involved in the process from the beginning.
Now we expect people to come before construction begins to get a construction license after approval from the authority,” Mkavea said.
She added now the authority is mandated to work with clients on identifying proper construction sites for a service station to the end.
“The laws are now in force and we expect sanity in the energy sector terms of constructing service centers,’ she said.
On filling stations that have been already constructed but do not meet standards and requirements prescribed by the new laws, Mkavea said the new regulations require MERA to issue improvement notices which instructs the owners to rectify the shortfalls that may affect operations of service stations.
She, however, acknowledged challenges still remain with filling stations constructed in unsafe locations.
Mkavea said it is difficult to the law retrospectively to filling stations erected on unsafe locations because the laws were effected on September 15.