Former Minister of Lands, Environment and Natural Resources William Harrington says government’s continued statements that it is committed to addressing climate change would remain mere rhetoric as long as it did not take practical measures.

In an interview with News Diggers! Monday, Harrington asked President Edgar Lungu to revoke title deeds issued in the Forest Reserve 27 if he were to show seriousness on his various policy pronouncements.

During the official opening of the Fourth Session of the Twelfth National Assembly on September 13, President Lungu directed the Ministries of Lands, Natural Resources and Water Development and Sanitation to take a lead in ensuring that Zambia’s water sources and the land adjacent to these areas were not adulterated by corporate entities or individuals in the name of development.

This was after the Head of State acknowledged that some of the country’s environmental problems were man-made, as some corporate institutions and individual citizens tended to ignore the environmental impact of their activities, which they conducted adjacent to some of the country’s water sources.

“The continued statements that government is committed to addressing issues of climate change or mitigating climate change issue will remain mere rhetoric as long as government, starting with the President himself, does not take practical measures to address the problems. In this case of forests, the government needs to show seriousness by re-gazetting all forests in the country in which people have been allowed to construct developments, so that the government can be seen to be serious and committed in addressing the issues of climate change. The President must start with the Lusaka East Forest Reserve No. 27. Whilst we welcome the President’s policy statements on the issue of climate change, he did not make mention of Lusaka Forest 27. Although he directed the Minister responsible (Jean Kapata) to ensure that no more developments, residential or industrial, take place in water sources,” Harrington said.

“It an open secret that Forest Number 27 is a water source for the Chalimbana and Chongwe Rivers on which the local community depend for their survival. We are disappointed with the President in his address (in that) he did not actually state that he would revoke the Statutory Instruments, which he signed de-gazetting that forest, which has brought about the problem. There are three SI’s he signed to pave way for a housing development. There were 130 plots or so demarcated for allocation to some citizens for residential purposes. For that statement he issued in Parliament to be meaningful and bring about the desired results, we are expecting him to revoke the SI and order the revocation of all title deeds issued. He (President Edgar Lungu) should order through the Minister responsible to make sure all the title deeds issue in the forest reserve are revoked.”

And Harrington accused government of contributing to the country’s worsening climatic conditions in the manner it dealt with land matters in the country.

“We expect all those people issued with title deeds to voluntarily surrender those title deeds in the public and national interest. We cannot blame them, wholly, because they may not have been aware that the Ministry of Lands were giving them title deeds in the Forest Reserve. For the President to show seriousness over his policy statements, he should revoke all the SI’s he signed! We are contributing recklessly to climate change in the manner we are dealing with land matters and it is politically-motivated. What is of concern is that, many head waters in the country are being approved for developments, either residential and industrial, which is threatening the environment and contributing to climate change,” said Harrington.