The Save Zambezi Coalition has called upon Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema to halt planned mining activities in the lower Zambezi and have cautioned of adverse consequences should the project go ahead.
The Zambian Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) in 2021 approved a highly controversial Environmental Impact Study, opening the way for the mine to go ahead. The CSO Coalition has expressed deep concern that if the mine goes ahead, it will not only risk contaminating water for communities in Zambia and Zimbabwe but for the whole Zambezi delta, potentially destroying farming and fishing livelihoods and one of the largest tourism destinations for Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
According to Conservation Lower Zambezi Environmental Education Manager Besa Kaoma, “the extractions of minerals will create imbalances which will adversely affect the environment. The Key environmental impact of mining in the lower Zambezi are on wildlife and fishery habitats”.
And if that was not enough damage, Besa further warns of adverse impact on water balance, local climates, and the pattern of rainfall. The mining activities will inevitably cause sedimentation and the depletion of forests which will ultimately result in the disruption of the lower Zambezi ecology which until recently has seen a surge in lucrative tourist activity whose potential is yet to be fully harnessed.
The petition, launched by a large coalition of CSOs, traditional leaders, artists, safari operators and other stakeholders, has been viewed by more than 760 000 people globally and shared more than 28 000 times, according to a press release from WWF Zambia Country Office.
With over 50,000 signatures collected from around the world, the controversial open-pit copper mine faces opposition despite its desperate and noble intentions of creating jobs. All of this is happening within the context of a deepening climate crisis that Zambia faces which has seen power challenges due to low water levels in Kariba, according to WWF Zambia Country Director Nachilala Nkombo on behalf of the Save Zambezi Coalition.
The Coalition further warns that this crisis affects multiple countries. “Over 50,000 signatures have been collected that are calling on Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema to halt the controversial mine that is planned for the lower Zambezi.” Furthermore, “while this project promises jobs for the local communities, coalition cautions on the potential water and river pollution that will come with the project. This will affect not only communities in Zambia but in Mozambique as well.”
Furthermore, biodiversity will be under threat. “This project will have a negative impact on the habitat that is critically important for biodiversity but the tourism industry as well.”
Potential Lower Zambezi
The Lower Zambezi National Park is an integral part of the wider Zambezi basin, which is the most significant shared resource that contributes to the economic, environmental, and social development of southern Africa. Sustainable management of this resource is crucial in securing the futures of over 250 million people in the broader region that depend on it. Tourism establishments in the park and surrounding areas employ more than 1 000 local people, generating a local wage bill of $4 million annually that indirectly supports thousands more people at a local community level.