FORMER environment minister William Harrington says government’s assurance that it will re-gazette all forest reserves irregularly degazetted is welcome.
He says where lives of citizens “are at stake, the new deal government cannot afford to procrastinate over life-threatening environmental crimes committed by the past regime”.
Minister of Green Economy and Environment Collins Nzovu told parliament last week that government would repossess the controversial Forest 27 in Lusaka East among other illegally degazetted forests.
“The trail of illegalities in the forest sector will take us 365 degrees to elaborate and understand. Indeed, the illegalities were entrenched. Indeed, we need to work together to ensure that these
illegalities are stopped completely,” he said. “The wanton degazzation of forests went far too much. Indeed, forest 27 like many other forests in the country, has been lost. Our recommendation for
forests which were degazzeted illegally and unnecessarily, our recommendation is that these should be should be regazzeted.”
Nzovu explained steps that have been taken so far to correct the mess that prevailed under the PF administration of Edgar Lungu.
“…Forest 27, the Minister of Lands [Elijah Muchima] and the Minister of Tourism [Rodney Sikumba] are actively pursuing this matter and we have recommended as stated in the statement that, like many other forests which were shared by politically exposed people, some of whom are in this House will be repossessed,” said Nzovu.
Commenting on Nzovu’s statement, Harrington an environmental activist said the assurance was in line with what the local communities have demanded through a petition presented to President Hakainde Hichilema.
“The government assurance made on the floor of the House recently by Minister of Green Economy and Environment, Collins Nzovu that government will regazette all forest reserves that were irregularly degazetted by 6th Republican president Edgar Chagwa Lungu prior to the August 12, 2021 elections, is indeed a welcome and fully supported development. It is a step in the right direction,” Harrington said. “The local community through the Chalimbana River Headwaters Trust have petitioned President Hakainde Hichilema to revoke or repeal the three statutory instruments issued by the immediate past president hiving-off over 1,100 hectares of the total forest reserve leaving only about 700 hectares.”
Harrington said the immoral and insensitive action taken by Lungu paved way for a massive residential housing estate for the benefit of some senior government officials and politically exposed or connected persons.
He said the illegality has denied the local community of their constitutional right of access to a clean and safe source of water due to contamination by hazardous and poisonous household discharge into the underground and surface water system.
“But in welcoming the government assurance, it remains a mere ministerial decree in the absence of any legal backing. What is therefore now needed is affirmative action through preparation of a
statutory instrument by the Attorney General in conjunction with the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources for signing and issuance by President Hakainde Hichilema as a matter of urgency in the public and national interest,” Harrington said.
He said where lives of citizens are at stake, the new deal government cannot afford to procrastinate over life-threatening environmental crimes committed by the past regime.