LUSAKA, 30th May 2023 – The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Zambia’s position remains unchanged from the position it issued in 2012 when the proposed mining project in Lower Zambezi National Park started.
WWF Zambia congratulates the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe for signing a Memorandum of Understanding on the development of the Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools Trans- Frontier Conservation Area on 26th May 2023 by Tourism Minister Hon Rodney Sikumba and the Zimbabwean Minister of Environment, Climate Tourism, Hospitality industry Comrade Nqobizita Mangaliso Ndlobvu. This MOU is anchored on a shared vision and direction on the sustainable natural resource management and development of this shared ecosystem for the benefit of all peoples and wildlife with a focus on tourism and related industries. The TFCA agreement seeks to make the Lower Zambezi and Mana Pools National Parks into a world-class tourism and conservation destination, attracting visitors from around the world. Mana Pools is a World Heritage Site, and the UN has suggested that Zambia consider requesting the World Heritage Commission to provide the same status for the Lower Zambezi National Park.
The Lower Zambezi National Park is an area of key biodiversity importance for southern Africa, with about 400 animal species of which 165 are mammals. Some of these animals are globally significant species, such as elephants, lion, wild dogs and eland to mention a few. The park also contains a portion of the key waterways of the Zambezi River which forms an area for regulated artisanal fishing. Of the 20 National Parks in Zambia only 4 of the national parks generate 96% of the revenues from nature based tourism. These are South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi, Mosi Oa Tunya and Kafue in the order of revenue and employment created. The Lower Zambezi National Park ranks 2nd of the 4, only after South Luangwa. The Lower Zambezi tourism currently supports about 7463 direct and indirect jobs.
As part of the global citizenry, WWF believes in sustainable use of natural resource endowments, and sustainable development with particular attention to ending poverty for all by 2030. We are proud to actively support TFCA and responsible environmental engagements both nationally and internationally.
WWF Zambia is deeply CONCERNED ABOUT recent reports on development of mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Country Director Ms. Nachilala Nkombo states:
“WWF Zambia’s position remains unchanged from the position we issued in 2012 when this discourse started. As WWF, we do not support the proposed mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park and this is consistent with our internal policy which propagates that NO mining should take place in IUCN protected Area categories 1 to IV. The Lower Zambezi National Park being an IUCN category II protected area, should therefore only be used for nature and cultural conservation, scientific studies and tourism purposes. We believe that allowing the proposed mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park has THE potential TO affect the ecosystems in and around the neighboring countries, that is, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. In Zambia, we have examples such as the lead poisoning in Kabwe, pollution of the Kafue river on the Copper belt and landscape SCARRING that is currently taking place in Lochnivar National Park, which has displaced wildlife distribution in the mined areas.”
Zambia is a signatory to the SADC protocol for shared water resources which aims to foster closer cooperation among member states for the protection, management and use of shared watercourses. The shared water courses are central to livelihoods and socialAND economic development within the communities that surround the shared water course. Unilaterally proceeding with the large scale open cast mining in such an ecologically sensitive area will be in direct contravention of the SADC protocol.
To secure a healthy, prosperous, future for communities in the Lower Zambezi area covering Chirundu, Rufunsa and Luangwa districts in Zambia, WWF Zambia urges the GRZ to review and cancel the license for this mining operation. This would be fully consistent with prior political commitments as espoused in the environmental sustainability pillar of the 8th National Development plan and the recently signed TFCA MOU which I referred to in my preamble.
What the Lower Zambezi needs to fully unleash its economic and social potential is a transformational plan on environmentally responsible tourism in the entire area, ideally arranged between Zambia and Zimbabwe in the spirit of the new TFCA. This will develop more commercial activities in tourism, agriculture and fisheries space thus creating equitable opportunities and more jobs for the young generation. Such a plan requires higher levels of cooperation unseen before between public, private, community and conservation sectors to achieve the big social, economic, and environmental goals envisaged under the 8th National Development Plan.
To achieve this, GRZ must lead from the front in developing the vision and identifying the building blocks for success of the Lower Zambezi, which is part of the greater shared Mana Pools area.
WWF remains strongly committed to work with the government, local communities, and other stakeholders to explore the best possible green economic development pathways that will secure this globally important ecosystem and provide opportunities for Zambians and the environment to thrive.