The World Wide Fund for Nature Zambia has urged government to cancel the mining license issued to the investors in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
WWF Zambia Country Director Nachilala Nkombo said in a statement that government should halt any attempts by the developer to move onsite in Lower Zambezi National Park.
Ms. Nkombo said government should also constitute a task force that will revisit key findings of the independent evaluation report on Kangaluwi mine.
Ms. Nkombo said WWF Zambia is deeply disappointed by the High Court ruling that allows Zambezi Resources Limited to proceed with establishment of an open pit mining operation at the proposed Kangaluwi site in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
She said the Zambian Government must take immediate action to safeguard Lower Zambezi National Park, a key natural asset.
She said the Lower Zambezi National Park is one of four national parks that generate up to 96% of Zambia’s non-consumptive wildlife tourism revenues.
“Although the mine is expected to cover about 980 km2, which is about 25% of the park, it is estimated that more than 50% of the national park will be lost (the entire northern part of the park).”
“This means that the primary reasons for which the park was initially established will be lost forever.”
“The Lower Zambezi National Park was established in 1983 to Conserve biodiversity, including iconic and rare wildlife, forest, and fresh water species, that also ensure ecosystem function.”
She added, “The Park was also created to protect the Rufunsa, Chakwenga and Chongwe River watersheds and conserve ecosystem services that also serve as a buffer to climate change impacts and provide for scientific knowledge advancement, public education, and tourism development.”
“WWF Zambia is therefore gravely concerned about the far-reaching economic, social, and environmental consequences that an open cast mine will have on the Lower Zambezi ecosystem.”
Ms Nkombo says the action by the High Court negates Zambia’s progress as a country on SDG Goal 15 which aims to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
She said proceeding with the proposed course of action in Lower Zambezi will rob current and future generations of Zambians of their rich natural resource heritage.
“WWF Zambia therefore cautions that awarding this mining license in an ecologically sensitive national park such as Lower Zambezi may set a dangerous precedent for large-scale investments in high biodiversity areas,” he said.
“National parks contribute to sustenance of Zambia’s ecological processes, provision of ecosystem services, tourism economy, and cultural values, and there is risk they will increasingly be targeted for conflicting uses that erode the unique values that make them key natural capital assets; thereby disregarding the natural inheritance of the Zambian people.”
She said WWF Zambia is not in support of this High Court judgement and observes that the appeal dismissal is based on a technicality, rather than a hearing of the substantive case.
“WWF Zambia is committed to engage in dialogue and processes that explore lawful and legitimate avenues to withdraw the Kangaluwi mining license,” Ms Nkombo said.
“In this regard, WWF Zambia lauds civil society efforts to ensure this matter is heard before the Supreme Court; including presentation of key risks associated with the proposed mine.”