CHINGOLA residents have expressed happiness at the court judgement that went in their favour against Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).
The Lusaka High Court last week ordered KCM to pay K10 billion as general and punitive damages to 2, 000 Chingola residents who suffered consequences of the company discharging effluent from its mining operations into Kafue River, the source of their water. The man who led the law suit, James Nyasulu Chimkowora said yesterday that he was happy that the court ruled in their favour.
Mr Chimkowora said the highest point of the judgment was not the amount of money the court had ordered the mining company to pay but the precedent that had been set. He said environmental protection laws as well as laws that empowered the general public against big industries were currently not strong. “Zambia has natural resources that require to be protected for our benefit. This is what this judgment has achieved,” he said. Mr Chimkowora said the ruling should be an example to the rest of the companies.
He said the judgment should not be seen as being against investors but as one that improved the welfare of the country. Another beneficiary of the judgement Esson Simbeye of Musuku Road in Kabundi central said this should serve as a wake up call for all the companies in the mining and other industries.
Reverend Simbeye said even if the money for compensation was not enough, the judgment had set a good lesson and raised hope for the residents of Chingola. The National Restoration Party (NAREP) on the Copperbelt said the judgment should serve as a warning to other companies to be sensitive to the rights of people that may be negatively affected by their operations.
Party provincial spokesperson David Chikwanda said the High Court decision was a step in the right direction as it was sending a warning signal to other companies to ensure that their operations did not negatively affect the people in nearby communities. “As NAREP, we welcome the High Court decision, although we believe that K5 million for each affected resident cannot be adequate compensation for the damage that the pollution has caused in the lives of the people, however, we believe that this is a step in the right direction,” Mr Chikwanda said.
The Zambia Institute of Environmental Management (ZIEM) said the judgment was a major milestone in the enforcement of environmental protection laws in Zambia. ZIEM chief executive officer Morgan Katati said in a statement in Lusaka yesterday that his organisation welcomed the judgment by the Lusaka High Court although it felt the K10-billion compensation
was inadequate in comparison to the long-term ecological impact of the pollution of Kafue River.
Mr Katati said following the judgment it was his hope that other mining companies would take a leaf especially those operating above the ambient air and water standards.
[Times of Zambia]