FORMER transport and communications minister William Harrington says the de-gazetting of the Maposa National Forest Reserve is an indication that government has been paying lip service on environmental protection and sustainable development.

The Maposa Forest Reserve No. 4, which was signed off by government to cease being a forest, lies along the Great North Road between Luanshya and Kitwe districts and stretches from the main road covering vast areas and zones within Luanshya through to Mpatamatu, and is strategically reserved in Zambia’s most forested area situated in the Agro Ecological Region Three also known as Zambia’s Rain Belt.

Commenting on the development, Harrington said Maposa Forest Reserve’s de-gazettion was worrying due to the environmental impact that would be sustained on the area’s ecological area.

“So, the de-gazetting of Maposa National Forest Reserve is a clear demonstration that the PF government merely pays lip service and rhetoric on environmental protection, conservation of forests, sustainable development and climate change,” Harrington said in an interview.

“The rate at which our precious national forest reserves are being de-gazetted in the country is unprecedented and is of major concern. The de-gazetting of National Forest Number 4 in Maposa area of Luanshya District through SI Number One of 2021 as announced by the PF party leadership on the Copperbelt is yet another worrying and sad development in so far as environmental protection is concerned.”

And Harrington cautioned that the Forest Reserve’s de-gazettion would result in future generations paying a heavy price.

“We are not against any sort of development in any part of the country, but such development including construction of schools and housing for citizens must not and should not be at the expense of present and future generations, who will pay a heavy price one day. To the best of my knowledge, the Maposa National Forest Reserves was gazetted for very important strategic and ecological reasons. It is a forest reserve, which must not be disturbed and interfered with, especially when it is done for purely political expediency ahead of the 2021 general election as it appears to be,” said Harrington.