Governance activist Pamela Chisanga says President Edgar Lungu cannot be sincere in his fight against climate change when he sees nothing wrong in de-gazetting Forest Reserve 27 and allowing human encroachment.
Last Saturday, President Lungu expressed concern about the sudden interest in Forest Reserve 27 by various stakeholders he claimed to have political agendas, and challenged the media to investigate what the area was all about.
The Head of State had said people had lived in Forest Reserve 27 for several decades and wondered why the allocation of plots to a few more indigenous individuals brought about so much talk.
But in an interview, Chisanga said President Lungu’s comments were detrimental to the fight against climate change.
“I find President Edgar Lungu’s statement about Forest 27 very shocking because this is the President on the 13th of September stood in Parliament and told us about the problem of climate change and on the impact it has on our country. Basically, all the challenges we are experiencing he attributed them to climate change. So, from that, we then have a President who is telling us that there is nothing wrong with going into forest reserves,” Chisanga said.
“I think it is a huge contradiction and now we must question ourselves: was what he was telling us in Parliament on the 13th of September really genuine in terms of the impact of climate change knowing that people can settle? Because if it was, then one of the things that we will be seeing is the strengthening of the laws to protect our environment, the natural environments that are so important in the fight against climate change.”
She said actions like encroachment on forest reserves had a negative impact in the fight against climate change.
“So, to see and hear the exact opposite actually begs a question if we are being told the truth about anything in this country because we now begin to wonder; you tell us the problem that we have, ‘we don’t have power, we don’t have this it’s because of climate change’, what is causing climate change? Isn’t it the way we are managing our environment contributing to climate change? Why, then, would you allow things that will actually exacerbate climate change and be okay with that? So, I think that the President, I am sorry to say this, the President is not being sincere, he not being sincere on Forest 27, people are talking about it now because has just de-gazetted,” she said.
“People fought to have it re-gazetted in the 1990s and Chiluba (Fredrick) gazetted it, there was no need to talk about it. He has just de-gazetted Forest 27 and, therefore, as citizens, we have every right and we have the interest to question this decision because we fought to have that forest re-gazetted and we have very valid reasons on why we wanted that forest re-gazetted.”
And Chisanga observed that it was difficult to appreciate President Lungu’s stance in the fight against climate change.
“He has come in to say, no, there is nothing wrong (for) Forest Reserve 27 to be de-gazetted. Even in places, if the President was genuine and he was sincere and well-meaning, even in places where they allowed developments in forest reserves, they have very strict guidelines in terms of where you can build, what you can build, what water supply you can have, what sanitation facility you may have because they want to ensure that the environment is still protected. As things stand, it is very hard to appreciate and see whether the President really understands what he is talking about when he is commenting on issues such as Forest 27,” said Chisanga.