WILLIAM Harrington says Water Development and Environment Protection Minister Dr Jonas Chanda should take affirmative action on Forest Reserve 27 in Lusaka East to preserve the natural environment and protect the area’s ecosystem.

In a statement, Tuesday, Harrington, a former environment and natural resources minister, said the area in question was a water catchment and recharge zone for streams and rivers, which local residents depended on for their livelihood.

“In congratulating Dr Jonas Chanda, MP, on his recent appointment as Minister of Water Development and Environmental Protection, we, as keen environmental activists, take the opportunity to acknowledge with much appreciation the Minister’s policy pronouncements on environmental matters as they relate to socio-economic development in Zambia. During his tour of duty on the Copperbelt, Dr Chanda declared that he will not ‘legalise any illegality’ without fear or favour because Zambia is a country of laws and not of men or women. His remarks were in reference to the issuance of a title to an investor who intends to construct a fueling station on a piece of land that is a water source. The Minister assured the nation that he would ensure that the title deed is withdrawn and cancelled,” read the statement.

“In commending Dr Jonas Chanda or his environmentally-friendly statement, we believe in the old adage that: ‘actions speak louder than words.’ What we expect to see now is affirmative action from government to correct all the illegalities in land and environmental matters. In this regard, we draw the Minister’s attention, assuming he is not already aware, namely the issue of a controversially de-gazetted Forest Reserve in the east of Lusaka, to pave way for a massive housing development. The area in question is a water catchment and recharge zone for streams and rivers on which local people depend for livelihood. This critical water source will be contaminated and polluted by poisonous household chemicals and fecal matter to the detriment of people as well as animal, fish and plant life. The forest is also an aquifer or underground water reservoir for the greater city of Lusaka.”

Harrington also advised Dr Chanda to take corrective action on alleged de-gazetting of a forest reserve in Shibunji area.

“Another matter that Dr Chanda should look into and take corrective action on alleged de-gazetting of a critical forest reserve in the Sibuyunji area in Mumbwa District. We are reliably informed that the forest in question has been shared by a few high-ranking government officials for farming purposes, an activity that disturbs the ecosystem of the area. Furthermore, over 150,000 hectares of forest reserve located in various headwaters have been de-gazetted over the past few years to pave way for human habitation,” stated Harrington.

“This, again, will compromise these water sources for our streams, rivers and, indeed, lakes such as Lake Kariba. The resultant low water levels means increased power load-shedding. We pray that Dr Jonas Chanda will give these matters his expeditious and active attention in the national interest and without fear or favour. He has the full backing of the Constitution of Zambia and relevant laws. He can rely on our full support in all his endeavours.”