FORMER environment and natural resources minister William Harrington says commendable as outlawing mining activity in the Lower Zambezi National Park is, it is an act of playing double-standards by the PF government.
On Wednesday, tourism minister Ronald Chitotela told journalists in Lusaka that there would be no mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park because the reports which Mwembeshi Resources Limited obtained from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) expired in 2017.
The minister explained that for any mining activity to take place in a game park, a licence from the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development had to be obtained, alongside a ZEMA report.
Reacting to the government decision, Harrington explained that all wildlife reserves, just like forest reserves, must be protected from any other developments for the benefit of present and for posterity.
He said the national park in question was, certainly, an important ecosystem for biodiversity which was imperative for tourism and that it must be preserved.
“Whilst position taken by government that there will be no mining developments in the Lower Zambezi National Park, as announced by tourism and arts minister Ronald Chitotela is commendable and welcome, it is, however, an application of double standards,” Harrington said, in a press release yesterday.
“Government has therefore made a good decision over the proposed open-pit mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park but it should also make the same position over the illegal developments in the Lusaka East Forest Reserve No.27, which is also an important ecological area.”
Harrington noted that Forest Reserve No.27, east of Lusaka, was a critical water catchment and recharge zone for Lusaka city and for Chalimbana and Chongwe rivers, “on which thousands of residents depend for livelihood.”
“We therefore expect government, through the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, to issue a clear government position over Forest Reserve No.27 and to revoke all title deeds issued in the forest reserve so that it remains a protected area, as the over 3,000 local residents had petitioned the then late president Dr Frederick Chiluba in 1994.”
He recalled that Chiluba was sensitive to the cries of the people and that he, “without hesitation,” signed Statutory Instrument No. 161 of 1996, de-gazetting Forest Reserve No. 27 in the public and national interest.
“Forest Reserve No. 27 is no less important than the Lower Zambezi National Park and government should give equal attention to it by doing the needful,” said Harrington.