THE Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation Trust Protecting Zambia’s Forests has asked President Hakainde Hichilema to immediately re-gazette Forest Reserve number 27.
In a letter, the trust has requested Lusaka Central and Chongwe members of parliament, Mulambo Haimbe and Sylvia Masebo respectively, to petition the President regarding the matter.
In the petition copied to local government minister Gary Nkombo, CRHC-Trust chairperson Andrew William Anderson and Caritas Zambia noted that Forest 27 is the source of the Chalimbana river and a critical forest for Lusaka city ground water supply.
“Subject: Petition to Request the Republican President to Immediately Re-gazette Lusaka East Local Forest Reserve no 27 – The Source of the Chalimbana River and Critical Forest for Lusaka City Ground Water Supply and Recharge system (rain-water-harvesting). As the newly elected peoples’ representatives for Lusaka Central and Chongwe constituencies respectively, you are hereby petitioned to request the President to immediately re-gazette the above cited critical forest reserve in public and national interest,” read the petition.
Further, the petition noted that the UPND through the party spokesperson…has clearly articulated the party’s policy position on the matter.
It stated that the party’s position was that the re-gazetting of forest reserve number 27 was to be on its first “order of business list” once elected at the 2021 general elections.
“Local Forest Reserve no 27 is situated in Lusaka Central Constituency under the Lusaka City Council. This Forest area forms a major strategic ground water (rain-water-harvesting) recharge zone for The City of Lusaka – now abstracting/supplying upwards of 60 per cent of its water supply from subterranean water sources,” states the petition.
The petition also pointed out that the Chalimbana river and its main recharge tributaries, critical to life and social and economic support to much of Senior Chieftainess Mukamambo II’s chiefdom and Chongwe district, has its source in this forest area.
The trust added that recognising its importance as critical to the greater environmental and as a water source for the people of the area of Lusaka, former president Frederick Chiluba, through his then minister of environment and natural resources, re-gazetted the forest after it had been de-gazetted due to security and defence imperatives of the liberation wars of the 1960 and 70s by the then UNIP government.
“A source of a river ‘does not charge its source and course’ the way we change governments. The source and course of the Zambezi, Kafue, Luangwa, Chambeshi rivers and for that matter ‘poor’ Chalimbana River have remained the same for millennia. However, the outgoing government, it appears, had this misguided logic of reversing the protection order of the Lusaka East Forest Reserve no 27,” further read the petition.
The petition further stated that the noble reasons that caused Chiluba to protect the forest, among them was the over 3,000 residents of Chalimbana river catchment area who signed a petition demanding that the area be re-gazetted, has not changed.
“Hence the urgent need for this petition to our newly elected Republican President His Excellency, Hakainde Hichilema to act in the name of patriotism and the national interest,” they stated. “We are firmly agree with the position of the governing party’s publicly stated position on Forest Reserve no 27, that is to re-gazette and have all illegal title deeds issued by the ‘discredited’ outgoing PF government in the forest area cancelled and all squatters regardless of status evicted from the area.”
The petitioners noted that all laws from forest protection Act, water resources management Act, environmental management Act, regional town and country planning Act to public health Act were contravened in the irregular, unprocedural and illegal de-gazetting of reserve forest 27.
The petition adds that the Constitution, from which the above subsidiary laws are drawn, is unequivocal in the protection and conservation of the environment and critical water resource and forest areas.
“Our files relating to this matter date back to 1996 and we continue to this day to pursue all forms of action to protect this forest, including litigation and forest protection through community forest management. The once life sustaining waters of the Chalimbana River have now been turned into a life-threatening sewage disposal ‘Carcinogenic brew’ for Human and riparian beings,” reads the petition.
The petitioners stated that the right to clean water and a healthy environment are human rights enshrined in the Constitution and other UN global treaties that Zambia is a party to.
The trust asked President Hichilema to immediately re-gazette Forest 27.
“It is a demand for the respect of human rights and inter-generational justice for current residents and those yet to be born, members of the population of the Chalimbana River basin as a whole! We further request that the undersigned have an urgent meeting with you our parliamentary representatives at your earliest convenient date,” they stated.