A Former Minister of Environment and Natural Resources in the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy Government has charged that the current infrastructure development taking place at the forest reserve number 27 located in state lodge area is illegal and has the potential to contaminate the underground water in Lusaka if not curtailed.
William Harrington who served under, Fredrick Chiluba’s Government from 1995 to 1996 says this is why recently members of the community petitioned President Edgar Lungu over fears that developments on one of the few water aquifers in Lusaka will lead among other things to the depletion of groundwater resources in the capital city.
In an interview with 5fm news, he expressed disappointment that people have however continued putting up various infrastructures in the protected forest reserve.
The Former Minister says this is despite the critical ecological function of the forest such as rainwater harvesting and recharging groundwater reserve and surface water flows for the Chalimbana River among others hence the need to protect the area.
He says in the context of climate change, the forest area, acts as what he termed as the lungs for Lusaka in mitigating the pollution generated by the city.
Meanwhile an environmentalist, Robert Chimambo is concerned that despite requesting the government to intervene in the encroachment nothing has been done.
Among prominent people who have constructed in the area include former Vice Enoch Kavindele.
Stories of this subject have been written before by investigative Journalist Charles Mafa
Enoch Kavindele, 11.04.2017
Go to those who have told you and I have an idea who they are and ask for the file which I gave them. I was not vice president when I got the land in 1997 neither was I in government. It is just that Mr. Guy Scott has a school where he teaches horse riding. So he is trying to use you for something that he has failed.
So it is not true that actually, this plot is in the reserve area?
No, it is not. You see. How long have you been in Lusaka?
I have been in Lusaka for quite a while but I have seen some maps and all these documentation which actually shows that the plot is in this protected reserve forest.
Okay, let me tell you then what happened. Do you know where Bauleni is.
Yes I know very well.
All that land going from Bauleni to where State Lodge is was once upon a time a Forest Reserve and it was so declared in I think 1929 0r 27 and I have got all these things. Then the government started now degazetting, created Bauleni, created all those farms on Leopards Hill Road up to State Lodge. So, they were hived out of the Forest Reserve. Then there was this one piece of land that remained of over 600 hectares. So, it was degazetted and advertised for people interested in it.
When was that?
Of course you caught me by surprise but of course, it is something which I know. But it was during the time of Mr. Chiluba. So that was then degazetted and advertised for people to apply. So I am one of those that applied. I got 89 hectares. Somebody else applied. They got 250 hectares and the airforce applied and they got over 200 hectares and that is where they have built a barrack if you go to Twinpalm – all that was part of the degazetted forest. At the same time, there is another section that was given to Makeni Ecumenical Centre to train youths. But they found the place to be hilly and rocky. So they were given alternative land in Chisamba.
So the reason they were given alternative land was because it was in hilly not because it was a reserve area?
No. No. It was a forest reserve but degazetted and given to them but because it was hilly they left. So, as I said, three groups, the Airforce and somebody else called Chalimbana Country Club or Chalimbana something like that got the bigger piece of land.
Now, Guy Scott and his group complained, just like they have done to you, use the reporters to write. It appeared in the papers which papers I properly filed saying Enoch get out of the Forest. One such headline read. So the matter was taken to court by the other people. The court ruled that indeed at one point the place was a Forest Reserve but it was digazetted and given out. So at the time, it was given out, it had seized being a Forest Reserve. So it ended there. The other group was the same group that took the matter to court. They were not satisfied with that ruling so they went to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the High Court. At the time the lands were given to the Airforce, to myself and to Chalimbana Country Club. It had ceased being a Forest Reserve.
So, now Scott became Vice President. He still started fighting, fighting but after the Supreme Court judgment, I think he was disabled. But his sister has a business of horse riding and those horses come to eat in what is my place. The proper title deeds everything acquired above board. This matter went to the Anti Corruption Commission, lands, they investigated. It went all over and they all ruled that the land was given genuinely to all those that applied for it.
You have explained clearly but I am informed that with SI of 1996 signed by the Chiluba government, it brought the land back into a protected area. Where you not offered alternative land?
Where did they offer me the alternative land? No why would I even have left that place? I will tell you why it was degazetted in the first place. The people of Bauleni now went in there and they were cutting tree and doing all sorts of things in that area. So to protect the source of Chalimbana, whatever. That is the reason they digazzeted it. The destruction was very much just as it is now on that hill and below the hill, trees have gone because people were just cutting down trees and burning charcoal and things like that.
So that is what I can tell you from top of my head…
So do you think people are just being malicious?
No. They also wanted it. According to the file which I have, which I gave to Dr. Scott. There are letters there from Guy Scott also wanting to get that same piece of land.
Do you know of a group called Chalimbana Headwater Conservation Trust?
They’re the same ones who took us to court. Yes, ask them for judgment. They should give you the judgment from the Supreme Court and the High Court.
Some people are saying these offices they have gone to complain to cannot act because of your closeness with the current government. Does that complaint hold water?
What arguments? I am a member of the MMD and we were kicked out of power a long time ago. I am not a member of the PF.
But you supported the current President?
Well, I supported Sata too. I supported Rupiah. I support that which is reasonable.