Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister, Wylbur Simuusa, has dismissed a petition by environmentalists led by Ian Manning that called for a boycott of the UNWTO General Assembly, calling it false and unpatriotic.
Manning has circulated the document to members of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), urging them to boycott the General Assembly to be co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe this August (See blog post here). Manning claimed, among other things, that the government intended to allow mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
"Some of the allegations made in this petition are unfortunately not true. Firstly, the proposed copper mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park was rejected by the Zambia Environmental Agency (ZEMA) and is in the process of being appealed. The petition suggests that there is a statutory limit on the period in which judgment should be delivered," he said on Tuesday. "This is not so, there is no statutory limit and a more careful process is underway to determine whether this decision to preserve the eco-tourism potential of the valley will at the same time be releasing some of the wealth trapped underground in Zambia for the benefit of its extremely poor population. It is not true that the minister in charge of the environment or indeed the Zambian government has failed to make a decision on the issue."
Simuusa said while government admitted that two fundamental requirements were overlooked when a large-scale mining licence was issued to the developers of the proposed mine, the issue was being addressed. "One appeal meeting has been held and another one is scheduled following further submissions made. Everyone can rest assured that there will be no shortcuts and no compromise with environmental standards whether the mine goes ahead or not," Simuusa said. "The petition also alleges that the tar road is being built through the Lower Zambezi National Park minus the environmental impact having been properly evaluated. This is totally untrue. Extreme care has been exercised with the 8000 kilometres of the new roads planned in the Link Zambia programme."
He said the government was encouraging debate on how to handle the conflict between conservation and exploitation of natural resources. "Can mining and management of a game reserve be done at the same time in the same place? As pressure increases for the exploitation and extraction of minerals and other resources, as a nation we need to settle this question, especially that the conflict exists not only in the Lower Zambezi National Park but in other protected areas of Zambia where there are abundant minerals and other resources," said Simuusa. "The Zambian government is at a loss to understand the boycotting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Conference, which will have a beneficial effect on the management of our superb wildlife and natural resources. We will urge everyone not to sign the petition because it seeks to cure mischiefs that do not exist."
Source: The Zambian Post, Simuusa dismisses petition against UNWTO assembly , 24 May 2013