Stakeholders in Monze District on Tuesday held a consultative meeting to discuss the impact of the economic development being undertaken in the Lochinvar National Park south of the district.
The Lochinvar National Park is home to a rear breed of Lechwe, the Black Lechwe which is locally known as the Kafue Lechwe and thousands of different bird species making it a popular a tourist destination for bird watchers for many years.
The Stakeholders were brought together by the Environmental Hub who had conducted some sturdy in the national park to learn some lessons as well as the impact of economic developments in game management areas after the recent interest to open up the lower Zambezi for mining activities.
Sharing their findings, Environmental Hub Southern Province Coordinator Elsony Hatimbula explained that it was their considered view that the locals had lost out on income which was generated from tourist as a result of the mining activities by United Gypsum company.
He said the Kafue Lechwe and many other animals had migrated to other areas due to mining activities and that there is need to find out if due diligence was done before the license was issued to the mine and that the locals needed to understand their role in ensuring that their interest were taken care of.
“Lochinvar National Park is home to the Kafue Lechwe which is a source of revenue for the district and the country as a whole. The Lechwe is not only a tourist attraction but also a national heritage for the indigenous people and the country.
“In recent past the Lochinvar National Park was affected by the Mimosa pigra which has since been addressed. It was a hindrance to the Lechwe population and other species that depended on the park for their survival.
“Within the National Park there are two projects that have been existing for some time which are the Gypsum mine and the Geothermal power plant and hence we need to learn how this project impact on people’s lives. We need to understand even the local people need to know how the projects will be run,” he said.
He also expressed concern on the Kalahari Geothermal Power Project saying his organization was concerned that the Shrine near the project would disappear hence the need for the company to assure the locals of it’s protection and continued existence.
In response, Monze Town Council Secretary Benson Bweenje said the issues raised in the report could not all be answered by the district officials present as the report was not shared with the concerned officials including the office of the council Secretary.
Further remained the hub to be mindful of the ethics of research were all parties involved should be a subject of research not be subjected to only be respondents at the end of the research as doing so does not yield the necessary results and solutions
He said some of the concerns raised in the report were genuine and that he would ensure that his superiors are informed as well as propose a meeting where they would be present to respond to the concerns.
The Council Secretary further told the meeting that he has been in constant communication with Kalahari Geothermal Company officials who have been open with their plans to ensure that locals benefit from the development in their areas.
Meanwhile His Royal Highness Chief Hamusonde of Bweengwa attributed the disappearance of some animals from the Park to the mining activities by the United Gypsum company.
He said the park was home to thousands of Zebras, Buffalos as well as Kudus but the animals have all left the Kafue flats due to the mine.
He further accused the mine of not ploughing back to the community where they were making millions of dollars from adding that even the road they are using to transport the mineral is dilapidated but the company has not shown an interest to repair.
The Stakeholders present at the meeting included Chief Hamusonde, Monze District Commissioner, Monze Town Council Chairperson, Counsel Secretary and the Environmental Hub which consists of local NGOs which deal with Land and Environment among others.
In the picture: Chief Hamusonde far right attends the consultative meeting with some district officials on Tuesday.