Green Party president Peter Sinkamba says government is breaching the Constitution in the stance it has taken with regarding Forest Reserve 27.

And Sinkamba says it is clear that there is too much political interference in the manner Forest Reserve 27 was de-gazetted.

Last week, the Ministry of Lands, through Director of Forestry at the Forestry Department, Ignatius Makumba, revealed that no Environmental Impact Assessment was done in the de-gazetting of parts of Forest Reserve 27.

But in an interview, Sinkamba said the absence of an Environmental Impact Assessment on such a piece of land was illegal, unconstitutional and against the Environmental Management Act of 2011.

“For us, as the Green Party, we are very, very concerned with what is going on with Forest Reserve Number 27 where the Ministry of Lands is doing things outside the provisions of the law, and outside the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia. If we look at the law, as obtaining the Environmental Management Ac t of 2011, it clearly stipulates that a piece of land to that extent cannot be changed in terms of land use unless a strategic impact assessment is done. What we call an SIA, Strategic Impact Assessment, that has not been done at all and that is a breach of the Environmental Management Act of 2011. Secondly, if you go to our Constitution of Zambia in Article 265, it provides for the principle under which land and forest and other natural resources are going to be managed and those principals, which are espoused in the Constitution have not been followed by the Ministry of Lands in the way they have managed that land. So, the whole management of the land there is not only unconditional, but illegal in the sense that it breaches the Environmental Management Act of 2011. So, we are very, very concerned,” Sinkamba said.

He said encroachment on the forests had a detrimental impact on the environment in long-run, which will affect the availability of water bodies.

“We want to put it on record that, the Ministry of Lands needs to reverse whatever decision it made to allocate those pieces of land. Because you see, we are looking at a situation where you are going to create what we call downstream impact in the long-run. That whole area there is what we call the watershed area for a number of streams, including the Chongwe River, and the moment you destroy that piece of land, then it definitely means that you are going to dry up all those rivers and streams, and that, at the end of the day, the downstream impact will be extremely massive for the lives of the people of Chongwe! And we are also concerned what is happening is not only happening at Forest Number 27; if we follow this Kafue River today, the Kafue River Forest Reserve, which were reserved there by our ancestors to support the Kafue River, have been destroyed over the years and that is why you see that the Kafue River is becoming very shallow by the year!” he observed.

“…And yet, this is the river that is supporting 80 per cent of the population of Zambia. If we continue in this kind of manner, pretty soon we will have problems where to draw the water to drink and even to support infrastructure like the Zesco power sessions in Itezi-tezhi. It is just a matter of time; we are almost there, those infrastructures will soon be white elephants because of mismanagement of this forests that we are tolerating in the Ministry of Lands, it’s not good. I think let sanity prevail and we hope one day the President will wake up to the realization that the people are getting these pieces of land and using them in the manner, which is detrimental to the environment, has long-term effects on the people of Zambia in the long-run.”

And Sinkamba said there was political interference in the manner Forest Reserve 27 was de-gazetted.

“The moment a Minister is involved, that is political interference itself at that is what is happening. We need to listen to experts! I was also listening to the presentations made by those Ministry officials, they really sounded so ignorant on the Environmental Management Act, what it says and what must be done and if people at that high-level are ignorant of the law that is very sad for the nation. I think, for once, let’s take these environmental issues seriously because the long-term impact on our future generations is drastic to contemplate! And it will be stupid of us, as a generation, to fail to protect the interest of future generations. We have a duty, we owe them a duty to these resources for their comfort in the future,” said Sinkamba.