LANDS and Natural Resources Minister Elijah Muchima has warned those who have continued to disregard government’s decree on Forest 27 risk having their structures demolished.

In an interview, Muchima said he had received information that some people had continued building structures in Forest 27.

“I am just warning those who are continuing disregarding the decree, those risk having their properties demolished. I have got information that there are people that have continued and yet we are doing that in the interest of the public and their own interest. Why are they in a hurry now? If they got them legally, they should wait until we conclude our investigations. The government is bigger than an individual, public interest is bigger than an individual. Since most of the forests were degazetted for personal interests, we have to serve the interests of the public,” he said.

When asked whether the halting of developments in Forest 27 was backed by any legal procedure, Muchima said the minister’s decree was provided for by law.

“I am a minister, I am in charge. That is being followed with an SI, we are carrying out investigations and geo physics to determine the levels of water because it is a recharge area. That thing was restricted as a forest to protect Chongwe and Chalimbana Rivers, but with human settlement it has disturbed the recharge. It is in public interest, there is no legal, I am a minister I am acting on behalf of the President. There is an SI that is before him but we are carrying out our own investigations. The decree is still in force,” said Muchima.

“We want what is called Strategic Environment Report so that we see how we can conserve or interrelate the activities of human settlement with recharge, to what extent can it be disturbed. We just want to see what we can salvage [from] what has remained. If we allow the resettlement of everybody, what will happen? And if we halt it at the moment what will happen? These are the options we are looking at. It is totally in public interest, it is not against any individual, it is about the water recharge area. At the moment you cannot question the legalities, the minister’s decree is provided by law and an SI will be put in place. If it is in public interest we have to halt and carry out the investigations, we have such powers.”