WE must emphasise that posterity will judge our new deal government harshly if it does not institute corrective measures on the environmental crimes committed by the former regime by regazetting forest 27 in its totality, warns environmentalist William Harrington.
Harrington said the fate of FR27 as a critical water source for Lusaka, Chongwe and Chalimbana areas now lies squarely in the hands of President Hakainde Hichilema and the new dawn UPND government.
He said former president Edgar Lungu was petitioned by the local community through the Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation Trust to revoke the statutory instruments that he signed degazetting a major portion of FR27 but “he ignored, neglected or simply refused to respond positively to the demand of the petitioners”.
“Various concerned environmentalists have for some time now made their concerns clear that construction of a massive private residential housing complex in FR27 poses a serious medium to long term danger to the health and well-being of the people,” Harrington said. “As far back as the year 1957, the colonial government in its own wisdom gazetted FR27 as a critical ecological forest and water source on which the people depended for their sustainable livelihood. Subsequent change of government ought not change the status of FR27 as a water source.”
He said “sadly”, Lungu disregarded the historical importance of FR27 and allowed the construction of high cost houses in the area to the detriment of present and future generations.
Harrington said the degazetion of a major portion of FR27 by Lungu was a breach and violation of the Constitution of Zambia.
He said Part V of the Bill of Rights, under economic and social rights section 52 subsection (1)(d) states that: “A person has a right to clean and safe water”.
“We therefore do not expect our new deal government to allow any housing development in FR27 which will inevitably result in pollution of this critical water source on which the local and those of Lusaka depend. And as health minister Sylvia Masebo recently confirmed, reported cases of diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery and typhoid were caused by consumption of water contamination by feacal matter,” Harrington said. “As we patiently approach the 28th December 2021 deadline date set by the Lusaka City Council for demolition of unauthorised and unplanned housing in FR27 as provided under the relevant Act, we however insist that the only long-term sustainable solution lies in the repealing of the ‘immoral and criminal’ statutory instruments signed by the former president.”
Harrington said he appreciated that President Hichilema and his administration were overwhelmed with numerous challenges in trying to repair the socio-economic damage caused by the immediate past government.
“We however believe that regazetion of critical forest reserves including FR27 cannot and should indeed not be amongst the least of those challenges because it is about the lives of citizens,” said Harrington. “We must emphasise that posterity will judge our new deal government harshly if it does not institute corrective measures on the environmental crimes committed by the former regime by regazetting FR27 in its totality.”