ACTIONAID Zambia has called on government to set up a tribunal to investigate the procedure used in the process of degazetting Lusaka East Forest Reserve Number 27 by the previous regime.

In a statement, Wednesday, ActionAid Zambia Country Director Nalucha Ziba said government should ensure that all due processes were done diligently and re-gazette the important ecological forest in Zambia.

“Action Aid Zambia is more concerned about the irreparable damage of degazetting forest 27 that threatens not only to the Chalimbana River Catchment Area and downstream but the whole region’s water system. Once the Chalimbana River is exposed to direct sunlight after those who have acquired land clear it to build their luxury mansions, the river will consequently start drying. The whole farming system around Chalimbana is also in jeopardy that will direct negatively affect thousands of women and youths whose livelihood is on the water system. This is not the first time forest 27 is being degazetted, however, we have to look at the bigger picture and benefits that come along with biodiversity protection,” Ziba said.

“As ActionAid Zambia, we urge the government to ensure that all due processes are done diligently and re-gazette this very important ecological forest in Zambia. We recommend the President Mr. Hakainde Hichilema for strong emphasis on rule of law. We urge the government to set up a tribunal to investigate the procedure used in the process of degazetting the forest by the previous regime, environmental assessments conducted and any possible corruption. We are happy for the new governments commitment towards environmental protection by also creating a ministry of green economy and environment and the willingness by the government in engaging different stakeholders to debate and share their well researched environmental effects and cost-benefit on natural resources in Zambia.”

Ziba said government’s decision to halt construction in Forest Reserve 27 was commendable.

“Action Aid Zambia wishes to welcome the government decision in halting construction in Lusaka East Forest Reserve number 27. Lusaka East Forest Reserve Number 27 is incredible biodiversity and serves as a recreation space for the local population. Lusaka East Forest Reserve No. 27 was established in 1957 to protect the source of the Chalimbana River and is part of an important water catchment’s area that provides invaluable social, economic and ecological services. For many years, it was classified as a protected area and home to some of the freshest water in the region,” said Ziba.

“By signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2016, the Government of Zambia renewed its commitment and resolve to take action in order to attain sustainable prosperity, safeguard the health of the people and the planet. This was a milestone decision saving the environment from practices that endanger its fragile natural resources like rivers and forests. Zambia has in the most recent years undergone the worst forms of effects of climate change that has made the poor more poorer due to crop damage as a result of unfavorable weather conditions in different parts of Zambia.”