UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has expressed sadness at the high level of negligence and irresponsible management the country’s natural resources have been subjected to.
Hichilema said the resources have contributed significantly to the enhancement of the socio-economics of the people and environmental stability.
“I specifically want to address the plight and plunder that our protected areas, the resources therein and the immediate communities have faced over years of negligence. These include all national parks, game management areas, and forest reserves, wetlands and other systems of significant value at local, national and regional levels,” he said, in a statement. “As UPND we value greatly and appreciate the importance these areas have to the nation but much more, the role they play in enhancing the lives of our rural communities and Zambia as a country. Furthermore, we are at pain to see the challenges our protected areas and resources management are facing. I am personally perturbed to see and experience the number of challenges that management of our resources are facing while best practices and choices are available. Such challenges must be a priority for any well-meaning government and tackled head on with the urgency and commitment they deserve.”
Hichilema said the current government cannot justify why protected areas have failed to achieve and deliver the benefits to the Zambians and the rural communities in particular.
He said major reasons the areas were created for cannot be fulfilled, benefited from as a result today Zambia was at the bottom of the ranking in regional level in the tourism context despite the unequivocal potential.
Hichilema said the uncalled for state of affairs could not be tolerated anymore and UPND would not leave resources degraded and mismanaged while the industry contributed nothing to the lives of the people and the nation at large.
He noted that the social, economic, and ecological values protected areas especially game management areas were created to provide were an illusion to many today.
Hichilema said that was the reality on the ground which the current government was not ashamed of.
“We recognise the challenges these protected areas face and we are committed to bringing sanity to the natural resources management fraternity, conservation and the tourism Industry,” he said.
Hichilema said Zambian tourism was mostly wildlife-based and UPND recognised that to build a robust and sustainable tourism base, the resources base must first be secured, protected and responsibly managed.
Hichilema said all resource bases must be objectively and strategically rehabilitated before they were further depleted.
He named the principal challenges as the absence of capable and responsible national institutions to manage the resources.
Hichilema said in its current status, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the Forest Commission were lame ducks all together.
Hichilema noted that plunder, degradation and depletion of wildlife in national parks and GMAs and high rate of deforestation were at unprecedented levels ever seen in the country.
He noted the absence of a responsive Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) model that answered to the concern of the resources, the communities’ needs and requirements of both the wildlife sector and the tourism industry.
Hichilema said misplaced usufruct, the right to use and benefit from natural resources had been given to wrong beneficiaries.
He said this had left rural communities out of the equation and a matter of serious concern.
“We cannot indefinitely turn a blind eye to such glaring injustice on our own people. The mukula saga and plunder is a threat to national economy,” said Hichilema.