ENVIRONMENTALIST Robert Chimambo has insisted that the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) has abrogated its mandate, which, among other things, includes protecting the environment.
Chimambo has submitted that ZEMA rejected mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park before the minister approved the project, and that even the government does not support the project and the same was evidenced by the ministerial statement to Parliament by then Minister of Tourism Sylvia Masebo on February 12, 2014.
This is a matter in which Chimambo has petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking an order that mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park violates the Constitution and that the State and ZEMA should withdraw the approval of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Chimambo who has cited the Attorney General and ZEMA as respondents, wants the court to order that the EIS dated May 7, 2021, should be withdrawn for being in violation of the Constitution and an order that freedom of the environmental information is a Constitutional right in Zambia.
But in its answer, ZEMA stated that the Environmental Impact Statement pertaining to Mwembeshi Resources Limited’s intention to undertake large-scale mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park was approved by the Minister responsible for environmental protection in accordance with section 115 of the Environmental Management Act (EMA).
ZEMA further submitted that mining activities can sustainably take place in the Lower Zambezi National Park in accordance with conditions of approval as the anticipated risks can be sufficiently mitigated.
The Agency argued that consultations were undertaken prior to the approval of the EIS and the addendum.
However, in his reply, Chimambo has argued that the petition was about the decision of May 7, 2021, as the decision of February 3, 2014, expired after three years and was not valid.
Chimambo stated that there could never be an addendum to an invalid or non-existence Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which expired after three years of being approved.
“Further, there is no evidence of registration of the project and there is no evidence of the addendum,” he stated.
Chimambo argued that no evidence of consultations had been provided as ZEMA wrote to some stakeholders on May 4, 2021, and gave them up to June 3, 2021, to respond.
He stated that ZEMA made the decision to approve the project on May 7, 2021, three days after writing to the stakeholders.
“The petitioner shall reiterate that the petition is not about the EIS of 2012 as it is invalid. The petition is about the EIS of 2021 which the second respondent surprisingly refers to as an addendum,” he stated.
Chimambo argued that ZEMA still believes they have the right to permit or deny someone access to environmental information by using the Statutory Instrument No. 28 of 1997 when the 2016 Constitution gave Zambians the right.
He stated that ZEMA should have put the said information on their website for the public to have access, rather than choosing who to give or not give the information.
Chimambo stated that objections to mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park contained in the petition came from ZEMA themselves and that it was only hoping but with no evidence that mining could take place in the National Park in a sustainable manner.