What Does the Lower Zambezi Say About Political Will? – By Clifford Malambo

It is saddening that the people we entrusted with power to run our national affairs are at the helm of affairs concerning devastation and destruction of the environment. The latest development in the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia- where government is actively working on issuing a mining license to a foreign investor – does not pass unnoticed. This prestigious Lower Zambezi National Park was on track to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, provided the Zambian Government did not alter the natural processes by permitting mining activities.

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It looked like the Zambian government would positively embrace such a designation, when an Australian company, Zambezi Resources, was invited to tender an environmental impact statement towards the development of a massive open-pit mining operation within the park. Some of results of the impact statement included extinction of species, soil erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity, and contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by chemicals from mining processes. In some cases, additional forest logging is done in the surrounding area of mines to increase the available room for the storage of the accumulated remains and soil. Besides creating environmental damage, the contamination resulting from leakage of chemicals also affects the health of the local population.

Zambia has a well-known history of mining companies that do not follow required environmental and rehabilitation codes, and this have been reported cases of mines disposing effluence in nearby rivers and killing riverine species on large scales. In the same environment of laxity towards regulations, mine owners do not usually ensure that the land containing closed mines are restored to their original states as best as possible. These eventually lead to chronic environmental and public health effects, some examples of which are barren croplands around the copper belt.

Unfortunately, the Land, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister – Harry Kalaba – has not intervened in upholding the Zambia Environmental Management Agency’s disapproval of mining processes within the national park. This has proved to be a huge setback. In response, the Zambia Community Based Natural Resources Management Forum (ZCBNRM), on behalf of over 100 environmental organizations in Zambia, has registered its disappointment, and protests against the decision by Harry Kalaba to approve the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the Kangaluwi Mining Project license. The ZCBNRM has since called upon all well meaning Zambians to rally behind this noble cause as the EIS did not even meet required local and international standards.This development further prompted environmental activists and some civil society organisations to seek the intervention of the courts. As such, Lusaka High Court judge Mubanga Kondolo has granted an injunction to stop large-scale mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park pending hearing of an appeal.

The decision of the High Court comes barely a day after the government gave a conditional approval of the Kangaluwi Copper Project that would be developed by Mwembeshi Resources, which is owned by Zambezi Resources of Australia. On 5th September 2012 Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) rejected the proposed large scale mining activities in Lower Zambezi National Park based on solid technical grounds.

Since, it’s a well known fact that mining in game parks  cause  destruction and disturbance of ecosystems  and habitats. It is only logical that all citizens, CSOs and government departments responsible stand up and protect  the  environment.

—About Clifford Malambo—

Clifford Malambo is a Zambian citizen who graduated from Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce where I graduated with a diploma in Journalism, Advertising and Public Relations in 2012. He has worked as a reporter at the Ministry of Agriculture and is currently an assistant public relations officer at Treatment, Advocacy, and Literacy Campaign (TALC).

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