Local Government and Rural Development Minister Garry Nkombo has lauded Centre for Environment Justice (CEJ) for facilitating effective dialogue among traditional leaders on environmental governance.
Mr Nkombo who is also Mazabuka Central MP said the economy of Zambia largely depended on land-based investments which called for environmental sustainability.
He said the New Dawn Government under the Leadership of President Hakainde Hichilema would work hard to strengthen land use investments governance including addressing breach of property rights and labour rights abuses.
Mr Nkombo called for social and environmental safeguards to regulate land-based investments in the medium to long term.
The Cabinet Minister was speaking when he officially opened the Traditional Leaders Caucus organised by Centre for Environment Justice (CEJ) in Lusaka, Wednesday, under the theme; ‘Strengthening Land-based Investments and Environmental Governance in Zambia’.
Meanwhile, CEJ Executive Director Maggie Mwape stated that land-based investments in Zambia were marred with land tenure disputes, unfair compensations and displacements, environmental degradation, and poor public awareness of the land rights and legal frameworks and institutions governing land-based investments.
Ms Mwape added that issues from the Caucus would inform the immediate steps to be taken in advancing land-based governance in Zambia.
She added that a Summary Action Paper capturing key issues raised by Traditional Leaders on the governance of land-based investments as well as social and environmental sustainability, would be developed and presented to the main plenary of the Environmental Protection Dialogue.
“The Caucus is convened by CEJ with support from the Advancing Land-based Investment Governance (Align) Project which is being implemented by a consortium of three (3) institutions namely the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) and Namati,” the CEJ Executive Director said.
Ms Mwape advanced that CEJ was delighted to deliberately convene the Traditional Leaders Caucus as a side event from the main annual event dubbed the Environmental Protection Dialogue.
“CEJ and its allied partners have realized that land-based investments are key to Zambia’s long-term development planning strategy – vision 2030, which identifies agriculture, energy, mining and forestry as key components to harnessing sustainable development,” she said.
Ms Mwape however, said several concerns were raised in the way governance on land-based investments had been undertaken in the last few years.
“There has been concerns as to whether the investments are effectively upholding socioeconomic rights, including land and livelihood protection, and protecting the environment, particularly with growing pressures on Zambia due to the negative effects of Climate Change,” she said.
Ms Mwape guided that sustainability was a key element within Zambia’s governance structure, defined to include Zambia’s supreme law, the Constitution and Zambia’s long-term development strategy, Vision 2030.
“The Constitution explicitly outlines the importance of balancing the need to attract investments to develop Zambia with the need to ensure their environmental and social sustainability (constitution of Zambia 1996, art 112). Nonetheless, observation of the situation on the ground seems to prove otherwise. There seem to exist uncoordinated legal frameworks that govern land-based investments and weak enforcement of environmental and social safeguards,” she said.
And Chairperson of the House of Chiefs Chief Nkula said traditional leaders were looking forward to policy pronouncements that would help them develop their areas.