A consortium of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have called on government to cancel all pending and existing licenses in the Lower Zambezi National Park and any other environmentally sensitive areas.

And Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation Trust secretary Robert Chimambo says the current Mining Act is harmful and needs to be reviewed.

Speaking during a press briefing on behalf of the CSOs, Thursday, ActionAid acting country director Jule Kwacheya said incidences of environmental damage were being perpetrated by leaders who should be in the forefront to lead the crusade against damage to the environment.

“The current debate on the mining investment in Lower Zambezi National Park makes sad reading in a country, such as ours, where there are clear policies and regulations governing the conservation of our natural resources. Such situations should not even be an issue of debate. We would like to join many other voices across in the country and internationally in condemning the planned mining investment in the Lower Zambezi. We are saddened at the fact that despite the effects of climate change being so evident and affecting the livelihoods of citizens with devastating impact on the national economy, incidences of environmental damage have continued to rise and, sadly, some are perpetrated by our leaders who should be in the forefront to lead the crusade against wanton damage to our environment,” Kwacheya said.

“As CSOs and citizens of this great nation, we feel duty bound to appeal to government to enforce their powers and revoke the licenses that permit mining in national parks for the sake of safeguarding the environment. Government should cancel all pending and existing licenses in the Lower Zambezi National Park and any other environmentally sensitive areas.”

She called for the development of stricter environmental audits and other compliance-related actions by ZEMA on existing licenses.

“Develop stricter monitoring environmental audits and other compliance related actions by the Zambia Environment Management Agency (ZEMA) on existing licenses and other economic activities. Therefore, government should endeavour to allocate enough resources in national budgets that will support ZEMA in terms of monitoring unlike what has been demonstrated in the current proposed national budget,” said Kwacheya.

“It is sad that as a country, we continue to fall short in terms of appreciating the benefits of our natural habitats and the ecosystem values. By choosing to disturb the habitat in its current state to accommodate mining is a clear demonstration of our myopic view of the benefits of our environment. The fact that mining contributes to the Zambian economy significantly is a fact that we cannot ignore, however, the significance of undertaking the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is to ascertain the extent of the negative effects of the proposed project against the benefits.”

And Chimambo said there was need to curtail the Mining Act’s powers.

“We must review the Mining Act, this is the reason why this is happening. Can you interrogate that Mining Act? It is pernicious, it is eating in the future of children! These corporations corner State House and everybody else and come up with mining in national parks! As a matter of priority, let’s get water, forest, this mining thing and environmental protection, we put them into one and move them to be under the President, but the chief executive officer and the team there must be ratified by Parliament. That is the only way we can make patriotic and professional decisions. You can’t have Bishop Chomba (Local Government Permanent Secretary) dealing with issues of the future. So, curtail the powers of the Mining Act,” said Chimambo.

Meanwhile, Chapter One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde said signing of the online petition would persuade government to reverse the decision.

“By this petition, it is the ordinary people of Zambia who are expressing their displeasure with the fact that mining is being allowed in the Lower Zambezi and also politicians respond to numbers, so the number of people who respond to this petition and show the government that this is something the people of Zambia are not happy with, the more likely it is to persuade the government to reverse the decision,” said Kasonde.

The CSOs who constitute part of the consortium include: ActionAid Zambia; Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD); WaterAid; Oxfam Wild Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); Caritas Zambia, Non-Governmental Gender Organization Coordinating Council (NGOCC); Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation Trust; Chapter One Foundation Alliance for Community Action; Zitukule Consortium; Care for Nature Zambia Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) and Civil Society Organization Environmental Hub.