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Govt must repossess ‘stolen’ forest reserves – Harrington

WILLIAM Harrington says the declaration made by President Hakainde Hichilema that respective arms of government must ensure money and assets stolen from the people by leaders and politically exposed persons are returned is commendable.

In a statement, Harrington said many local and national forest reserves have been degazetted and literally “stolen” from the people.

The former environment and natural resources minister said “all these must be repossessed and surrendered to the state”, starting with the controversial Lusaka East Local Forest Reserve Number 27.

“A major portion of this forest was degazetted by immediate past president Edgar Chagwa Lungu and ‘privatised’ by various senior government officials and politically exposed persons who have been secretively allocated plots for residential housing,” he said. “Upon recommendation of his lands minister Ms Jean Kapata, president Lungu signed a statutory instrument degazetting FR27, in total disregard of a petition presented to 2nd Republican president Dr Frederick Titus Jacob Chiluba 1994 to have the area regazetted. The over 2,500 Chalimbana and Chongwe community who signed the petition depend on the critical water source for livelihood.”

Harrington added that with the degazetion by former president Lungu, the only remaining forest mass within 40 kilometres radius of Lusaka has been stolen from the people hence the need to have it returned to them, by a presidential order.

He said he had every confidence that President Hichilema would prioritise the environment because he is a successful farmer and appreciates the importance of the sector in achieving sustainable socio-economic development.

“The United Party for National Development manifesto is clear and categorical on the importance of environmental protection and climate change,” Harrington said. “What is important now is for the UPND under the leadership of President Hakainde Hichilema to demonstrate political will on environmental protection, conservation and prudent management, exploitation and utilisation of our country’s natural resources.”

He lamented that the Patriotic Front government merely paid lip service to environmental issues and caused damage at an unprecedented level.

Harrington said the PF “bad legacy” must not be repeated by the new government.

He said demonstration of political will on dealing with environmental issues would attract much goodwill and financial support from the donor community and multilateral financial institutions because “today, more than ever before, the environment is assuming center-stage in the world”.

Harrington said Zambia cannot afford to lose out on financial support for environmental and climate change programmes as a result of environmental mismanagement.

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