As CSOs, we would like to join the many other voices across the country and internationally in condemning the planned mining investment in the Lower Zambezi National Park. We are saddened at the fact that despite the effects of climate change being so evident and affecting the livelihoods of citizens with devastating impact on national economy, incidences of environmental damage have continued to rise and sadly some are perpetrated by our leaders who should be in the forefront to lead the crusade against wanton damage of our environment.
The current debate on the mining investment in Lower Zambezi National Park makes a sad reading in a country such as ours where there are clear policies and regulations governing the conservation of our natural resources. Such situations should not even be an issue of debate.
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. This means that the primary reasons for which the park was initially established will be lost forever. Suffice to mention that the Lower Zambezi National Park was established in 1983 to:
• Conserve biodiversity, including iconic and rare wildlife, forest, and freshwater species, that also ensure ecosystem function;
• Protect the Rufunsa, Chakwenga and Chongwe River watersheds;
• Conserve ecosystem services that also serve as a buffer to climate change impacts; and,
• Provide for scientific knowledge advancement, public education, and tourism development.
With the foregoing, the importance of the Lower Zambezi National Park cannot be overemphasized. The park covers a large stretch of wilderness area along the north-eastern bank of the Zambezi River and the Zambezi River valley is known for abundant wildlife and other natural resources. By allowing mining activities to commence in such a habitat, we risk compromising the rich ecosystem that is home to a variety of fauna and flora. We are also alive to the fact that there are some mining licenses that are already existing in Lower Zambezi, and some are pending renewal; ranging from large scale prospecting, active mining rights and mineral processing to small scale mining licenses.
As CSOs and citizens of this great nation, we feel duty bound to appeal to government to enforce their powers and revoke the license/s that permit mining in national parks for the sake of safeguarding the environment. There is need for urgent intervention by those in power to ensure we are acting in the best interest of our country which is not only for the current generation but also for future generations.
In the recent past, we have heard numerous proclamations by our leaders with regard to climate change and its effects. Shockingly, our actions are not demonstrating the proclaimed commitments to address climate change. Instead, we continue to see actions that are bent on compounding the problem and this poses a risk to this country in terms of its development as nothing can thrive without a healthy environment.
As CSOs, we remain committed to support efforts by government that are aimed at strengthening conservation measures and we shall not keep quiet when we see actions that are promoting damage to our environment. Allowing mining in Lower Zambezi is not a demonstration of commitment to sustain nature and mitigate the impact of climate change. Mining comes with rampant activities in terms of cutting down of trees which are a huge component of the ecosystem and therefore caution must be exercised in allocating areas for such investment.
We are alive to the fact that in 2013, the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) rejected the application by Mwembeshi Resources limited to mine in Lower Zambezi National Park, however the mine appealed their rejection to government who then approved the application by overturning ZEMA decision. This is an indication that there is rampant disregard of procedures and processes and this is evidence that the process of issuance contravened particular sections of the Mines and Minerals act.
It is sad that as a country we continue to fall short in terms of appreciating the benefits of our natural habitats and the ecosystem values. By choosing to disturb the habitat in its current state to accommodate mining is a clear demonstration of our myopic view of the benefits of our environment. The fact that mining contributes to the Zambian economy significantly is a fact we cannot ignore, however, the significance of undertaking the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is to ascertain the extent of the negative effects of the proposed project against the benefits. This is an analysis that is critical in order to appreciate the significance of sustaining the environment beyond direct monetary gains.
As CSOs we believe that wildlife tourism both consumptive and non-consumptive has excellent potential to generate the much-needed foreign exchange which can contribute to addressing several economic challenges including our current debt burden. In 2018 alone, the sub-sector generated about 11 million dollars which is quite significant. Therefore, Lower Zambezi National Park is one of the key national parks that is already contributing high revenue for the country in its current state. Allowing mining in national parks will greatly compromise the economic potential of tourism as a whole.
In view of the above, as CSOs we are making the following recommendations:
• Government should Cancel all pending and existing licenses in the Lower Zambezi National park and any other environmentally sensitive areas.
• Expedite the establishment of strategic environmental assessment regulation with specific reference to designating some regions as non-mining areas, which will therefore mean that there will be non-issuance of any mining licenses in the lower Zambezi and any other ecologically and culturally sensitive regions in Zambia.
• Develop stricter monitoring, environmental audits and other compliance related actions by the Zambia Environment Management Agency (ZEMA) on existing licenses and other economic activities – therefore government should endeavor to allocate enough resources in national budgets that will support ZEMA in terms of monitoring unlike what has been demonstrated in the current proposed national budget.
Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD)
Wild Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation Trust
Chapter One Foundation
Alliance for Community Action
Care for Nature Zambia
Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM)
Civil Society Organization Environmental Hub