Minister of Green Economy and Environment Collins Nzovu says the Government will review the allegedly dubious allocation of residential and commercial plots in Chililabombwe’s Kamenza Forest Reserve Number 19.
Mr. Nzovu said the Government may repossess the land in question.
According to Chililabombwe District Commissioner Precious Njekwa close to 3000 hectares of land in the Kamenza Forest Reserve was allocated to among others former miners by the previous Patriotic Front Government.
Flanked by Chililabombwe Mayor Lucky Sichone, Ms. Njekwa told Mr. Nzovu on his tour of Copperbelt Province that land in the forest reserve was given out to potential developers despite opposition from the Forest Department.
She said land encroachments in the forest reserve were disturbing the life of five streams with one of them drying up in recent times.
“Following the massive job losses in the mines on the Copperbelt declaration was made by then President Edgar Lungu to empower ex-miners with land for Agriculture purposes. Kamenza Forest was chosen to be given to our ex-miners. During an extra ordinary council meeting held on 19th April, 2018 the follow following was mentioned: Town Clerk invited forest officers on the Copperbelt to conduct a technical assessment of the potential to de-gazette Kamenza Forest Resource,” Ms. Njekwa said.
“Honourable Minister, I have given you a brief report on that one, what happened is that council wrote to Forest and then also Forest gave a report which they noted that it was not possible to give it out because of the water bodies around it. We went to check and it is true it has five streams and one stream has so far dried up so the main stream is not doing very well because some streams that have dried up are flowing into the Kafue River,” she said in a written statement.
“A brief report is that letters were written by (Forestry Department) but there was no response and the Government then went ahead to give the ex-miners land. So far the issue I have is that some miners benefited about 1000 hectors and also about 1000 hectares were given to the people that had farms already so I think we are talking about almost 3000 hectors given away from the same forest,” Ms . Njekwa concluded.
In his response, Mr. Nzovu said it was unacceptable to give out land in forest reserves and asked the council in Chililabombwe not to allow people to develop in ecological sensitive areas.
“What used to happen before is giving out land for political expediency so there was no thought process to it. People were just coming, giving these forests to the cadres, and giving this forest to the ex-miners because of the desire to win elections. If indeed we have to make a decision for all of us to go a certain way, maybe give out a small portion of land we have to have technical backing, we have to have science behind it,” he said.
“We have to say maybe this small portion; you can’t go out to give away a forest which is so ecological sensitive. So through you my leaders (Mayor and District Commissioner) we also ask, actually the first thing to do is to ensure that there are no more people going there (Forest Reserve), that the encroachment is stopped fourth with because the fact of the matter is that certain places that may have been given out we may have to get them back because we can’t lose rivers. Rivers have started drying up because of human activities, you cut all the forest, headwaters and you cut the water sources.”
“And there are five streams D.C you are correct in everything you said. If these streams are affected it means the main river Kafue will be affected. All the water in the Kafue River comes from this end so we need to work together. Our first reaction basically is that we are still looking at this issue very critically so if there are people still going there they may lose that land, they may lose their investment because there is no legal decision right now to give out that land. That land given to our ex-miners as well, we need to relook at the whole map and say maybe we can give you here not there,” Mr. Nzovu said.
“I know there are commercial people as well, big people who have gone there but we don’t mind if it is ecologically sensitive we will get it back. I am sure your worship, you are in charge of the council. Here people cannot develop without council consent and council cannot authorize developments in a forest so that is where the catch is you find that most of them are illegal structures. People are occupying that land illegally,” he said.