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Friday 31 May 2013

Major Project Maps Change in Zambezi Basin

A major report has been published (available online here) looking at landuse and wider environmental change across the Zambezi River catchment, and highlights the many pressures facing the environmental integrity of the region.
The Zambezi River Basin Atlas of the Changing Environment looks at climate and human pressures on natural resources across the river basin, which encompasses part of eight countries — Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Atlas uses satellite images, high resolution photographs, illustrative text and graphics to investigate various issues in the Zambezi basin, from use of water and other natural resources, as well as socio-economic and cultural aspects, and identifies climate change and population growth as major drivers of environmental change.
Satellite images show that the basin has undergone major environmental changes in the past 20 years. These include land degradation, loss of forests, expansion of urban and mining areas as well as the spread of alien plant species. According to the Atlas, the population of the basin in 1998 was 31.7 million compared to an estimated 40 million in 2008, with 7.5 million people living in urban centres.
Most countries in the basin are urbanizing rapidly, putting pressure on finite resources. The Atlas illustrates the deforestation of large areas surrounding Lilongwe in Malawi, among others, due to the high demand for firewood and land for farming by the growing population.
Mining is a major economic activity in the basin and satellite images reveal striking land-use changes as a result of mining activities, notably in Zambia. The revival of copper mining at Kanshanshi and Lumwana mines in Solwezi in north-western Zambia has led to a population influx, resulting in the rapid but haphazard expansion of the town. As a result, surrounding forested areas have been cleared for firewood and peri-urban farming.
Sub-basins such as the Luangwa River, Lake Kariba, and the Kafue and Kabompo rivers also have high concentrations of mining operations, contributing to water pollution in the Zambezi river. In addition, highly urbanized sub-basins such as the Kafue and Manyame are discharging waste into the Zambezi river system. The use of fertilizers and agrochemicals are contributing to the growth of harmful aquatic plants. Water hyacinth growth is a problem throughout the basin, and areas particularly affected include the Kafue Flats in Zambia, Lower Shire in Malawi, Lake Kariba between Zambia.
Zambezi River Basin Atlas of the Changing Environment, the first of its kind in southern Africa, is a collaborative initiative with the objective of providing scientific evidence about changes that are taking place in the environment. The Atlas is being produced for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Water Division, the Interim Secretariat of the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM), and Zambezi River Basin stakeholders, by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) through its environment institute, the I. Musokotwane Environment Resource Centre for Southern Africa (IMERCSA) and GRID-Arendal, both collaborating centres of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The Atlas is available online to download here.
Original source: ZAMCOM: Changing the Environment in the Zambezi River Basin

Zambia plans Ngonye Falls hydropower scheme

Ngonye (Sioma) Falls
Zambia's Western Power Company is looking to develop a US$200 million hydropower facility at Ngonye (Sioma) Falls, expected to generate up to 80 megawatts of power. The project will utilize a barrage across the main east bank river channel of the Zambezi and a pit-type power house.
Western Province is currently one of the least developed areas of Zambia and the coming of the hydropower plant, which will partly be funded by the Development Bank of South Africa, is expected to boost the area’s economic standing and ultimately create jobs for the local people.
Commenting on the development in local media, provincial minister Obvious Mwaliteta said Western Province was moving at a fast rate in terms of development. "The EIA ( Environmental Impact Assessment) done by Western Power was welcomed by people and the BRE (Barotse Royal Establishment)... it will create employment and the new district, Sioma, [will] benefit in terms of social corporate responsibility” he said.
He also said the government was looking at increasing revenue from tourism which would be enhanced around Sioma-Ngonye Falls with the construction of the power station. “Tourism is ripe in that place. But due to its status it is difficult to improve tourism in that area, but once we have a power station there, it will be easy” Mwaliteta said. He added the investment by Western Power Company was a realisation of the government’s commitment to allow private investors help develop Zambia. “It is our vision and our belief to bring the private sector to help us bring development where it is lacking,”.
Source: Barotse Post: $ 200m hydropower plant to develop Western Province

Namibia plans to tap Kavango River to supply Windhoek

Tne Nambibian government has reopened long-term plans to divert water from the Kavango River in the north eastern part of the country to the Van Bach Dam which supplies the capital and economic hub, Windhoek.
Those opposing the idea say it will negatively affect floodwaters flowing into the Okavango Delta.
Under Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Abraham Nehemia last week told natioanl media sources in Namibia that the cost of the project, should it be carried out, would only be determined after an environmental impact study.
“The feasibility study will give us a clearer picture on the design of the project and the costs involved,” he said. Nehemia said Botswana and Angola, the two countries which share the water resource with Namibia, have not objected to the idea of drawing water from the river to the Von Bach Dam. He said although the dam had adequate water levels at the moment, if the country experienced three consecutive droughts the dam would dry up.
The Von Bach Dam, which was constructed in the late 1960s and commissioned in 1970, relies on water from the Swakop River and has a capacity of 48,560 million cubic metres, suppliying Windhoek and Okahandja. In October last year, water utility, NamWater inaugurated the Von Bach-Windhoek Transfer Capacity Increase Project at a cost of N$200 million. This will increase the transfer capacity from 2,700 cubic metres to 5,400 cubic metres.
Statistics obtained from the City of Windhoek, show that the capital has been growing at a rate of between three and five percent since Independence and the demand for water supply to Windhoek has also grown proprtionately. Okahandja has also witnessed tremendous growth because of rural-urban migration as well as other developments. The City of Windhoek consumes about 20 million cubic metres per annum. Extensive use of groundwater for domestic, agricultural and industrial use has resulted in the progressive lowering of the water table.
Source: The Namibian: Long-term plan to tap Kavango river to supply Windhoek

Saturday 25 May 2013

Minister dismisses petition against UNWTO assembly

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

Saturday 18 May 2013

Zambian Govt pumps Livingstone UNWTO preparations

The Zambian government has released more than KR10 million to the Livingstone organising committee for the UNWTO General Assembly to speed up preparatory works.

And tourism and arts minister Sylvia Masebo has directed the Zambia Police and the Livingstone City Council to allow newspaper vendors to sell newspapers freely after reports of harassment since she ordered for the removal of street vendors from the main business corridors.

The UNWTO indaba is the first of its kind to be held in Southern Africa and the second in Africa after Senegal hosted the 2005 UNWTO assembly. With the release of the funds, Masebo expressed hope that infrastructural works and other proposed projects would be implemented before August 24 when the UNWTO general assembly commences.

She also said it was unfortunate that the State and Council police were not allowing newspaper and airtime vendors to display their products in the main street. Masebo said newspapers should not be hidden and inconvenienced because they were informing people on several matters of development.

Environmentalists petition UNWTO members to boycott assembly

Environmentalists led by Ian Manning have petitioned members of the UN World Tourism Organisation to boycott the General Assembly scheduled to take place in Victoria Falls and Livingstone - if Zambia allows mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

According to the petition that has been sent the 154 UNWTO member countries and posted online at (external link), the UNWTO and its partners, including Zambia and Zimbabwe, must abide by the UNWTO Code of Ethics that recognise ecotourism as key in the fight against poverty.

The petition accuses the government of failing to uphold the rejection of th open-pit mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park by the Zambian Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA).

"Its Minister is failing to make a decision on the appeal made in November 2012. In addition, President Sata personally supervises the Road Development Agency, their priority being to construct a tar road through the park without any environmental or strategic oversight. As the miners - Australia's Zambezi Resources Limited - have made clear, President Sata and his senior ministers support the project," read excerpts of the draft petition.

"Therefore, the only reason for the Minister not upholding the appeal by the miners within the statutory two weeks is to save Presidents Sata from being embarrassed at the Victoria Falls and Livingstone UNWTO General Assembly meetings. In the absence of an immediate undertaking to prohibit mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park and to halt the building of a tarred highway until the normal Environmental Impact Statement procedures are followed, I call on member countries and affiliate members to be bound by the UNWTO global code of ethics and BOYCOTT the twentieth General Assembly."

"This document should also insist that Zambia give an immediate undertaking that no mining or unplanned and unsanctioned road programmes will be allowed in the Lower Zambezi National Park. Failure to do so will require a boycott of the August UNWTO/Zimbabwe/Zambia general assembly by member countries and affiliate members,".

It advised people to sign the petition aimed at protecting the environment and the promotion of sustainable development, stating that the Zambezi basin's massive area of primary nature was threatened by mining, hydro-electric schemes and gross infrastructural development. "While gathered on the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls and Livingstone, many members will be unaware that downstream is the mid-Zambezi wonderland of nature in which ecotourism thrives - supposedly secured by a broad array of protected areas, including a world heritage site, and with the massive support of 17 chiefs of the Zambezi Basin who in October 2008 called on their governments and SADC to ban all mining there,".

And Manning stated that the petition had created an awareness of the threat to the Lower Zambezi National Park but it has not had much effect on the Zambian Patriotic Front Government.

Source: Adapted from The Zambian Post, Conservationists petition UNWTO members to boycott assembly (17 May 2013)

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Victoria Falls, Katima Mulilo and Kazungula borders to be computerised by June

The Zambian Post
2 May 2013
Zambian Immigration Department says computerisation of its systems at three border posts... is expected to be completed by June.
Immigration acting public relations officer Mubanda Chansa said Techno Soft Company has been awarded the contract for the works. Government recently released over KR500,000 for computerisation of Victoria Falls border post in Livingstone and Katima Mulilo and Kazungula border posts, as the country steps up preparations to host the 20th Session of the UNWTO general assembly, which will be held in southern Africa for the first time.
Ms Chansa said in an interview in Livingstone yesterday that the department has since bought equipment needed for the project which includes 20 computers, 15 web cameras and finger print scanners... Ms Chansa said the border posts will be linked to the headquarters in Lusaka which will in turn expedite the verification and issuance of travel documents.
The computerisation of Victoria Falls, Katima Mulilo and Kazungula border posts is meant to ease the movement of travellers to and from Zambia, during, before and after the UNWTO general assembly, whose aftermath is anticipated to increase the flow of tourists into the country.
Read full article here.

Monday 13 May 2013

Zambian girl, 17 drowns in Zambezi River

The Zambian Post
13 May 2013

A 17-year-old girl of Dambwa drowned on Friday after being swept by a strong current upstream of the Victoria Falls.

Southern Province police commissioner Charity Katanga confirmed the incident and identified the victim as Ester Chama... Katanga said the accident happened around 17:00 hours on Friday and the body of the deceased had not yet been recovered. "The incident was reported by the victim's niece Wanna Saili aged 13... who reported that her aunt, Ester Chama, drowned upstream Victoria Falls Heritage Site in the Zambezi River. The victim was swept away by a strong current," Katanga said.

Read full article here.

Elephant 'tramples to death suspected poacher'

The Daily Telegraph [UK]
13 May 2013

The bloodied remains of Solomon Manjoro were found by rangers after what was thought to be a botched poaching trip at the protected Charara safari area.

Zimbabwe's Sunday Mail reported that the local man was charged by the elephant after he entered the game reserve for an illegal hunting trip with a friend. The dead man's alleged accomplice Noluck Tafuruka, 29, was later arrested inside the park and charged with illegal possession of a firearm.

The state-controlled Sunday Mail reported: "The poacher was recently trampled to death by an elephant after he failed to gun down the jumbo during a hunting expedition."

It is believed Manjoro and Tafuruka encountered the elephant after entering the huge game reserve at the end of April.

Read full article here.

Friday 10 May 2013

Battle for Batoka hots up

The Herald, Zimbabwe
22 April 2013

A consortium of Zimbabwean, Zambian and Chinese businesses have expressed interest to build the estimated US$4 billion Batoka Hydropower Project...

Energy and Power Development secretary Mr Partson Mbiriri said recently that six companies out of 25 had been shortlisted after bidding for the construction of the hydropower station.

Information gathered by Herald Business reveals that a local company, Khanyisa Energy and Treasfin Securities of Zambia, has partnered with one of the world’s leading energy companies, China Gezhouba Group Corporation, in the race to construct the Batoka Hydropower Project. CGGC are renowned for constructing the world’s largest hydropower station, Three Gorges Project, at a cost of more than US$50 billion in China.

Sources close to the development said the consortium known as Batoka Hydro Energy Power Company has joined among other companies, Sino Hydro-China, Carmago Correa-Brazil, China Water and Electricity Company and other Chinese and some European and Middle East firms to land the lucrative deal.

So far the two governments have ordered a fresh environmental impact assessment study before the actual construction begins. The ZRA was now in discussions with the World Bank to see if it could finance the fresh feasibility study.

Read full article here.

$150m expansion of Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe underway

World Architecture News
03 May 2013

Work has begun on the expansion of Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe by a Chinese construction group. China Jiangsu International have been brought in to construct a new 4km runway, build a 20,000 sq m international terminal building, upgrade the existing domestic terminal building, and construct a new fire station and control tower.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on 12 April 2013 where prior to the official ‘dig and scoop’ ceremony, local chiefs hosted traditional ceremonies to ‘appease spirits of the area after previous attempts to expand the airport failed’ [The Herald Online].

It is hoped that the $150m expansion scheme funded by the Import and Export Bank of China will increase tourism in the area with passenger numbers estimated to triple from 500,000 per year to 1,500,000.

Vice President Joice Mujuru explains: “Victoria Falls is indeed a strategic tourist destination. That is why Government has taken this deliberate move to construct a longer runway and bigger terminal buildings that will allow wide-bodied aircraft to bring in more tourists.”

See full article here.

Lower Zambezi National Park Mining Company to Appeal

Gill Staden of the Livingstone Weekly (28 April 2013) reports that Zambezi Resources are set to appeal against the decision by Zambia's Envrionment Agency to throw out their plans to mine within the Lower Zambezi National Park (see our previous post here).

Quoting from Mining Weekly they report:

'Zambezi Resources is looking to raise up to A$15.4-million [Australian Dollars] through an entitlement issue to complete the oxide bankable feasibility study (BFS) for its Kangaluwi copper project, in Zambia... Zambezi executive chairperson David Vilensky said that the raising would enable the company to eliminate debt and simplify its funding framework as it sought to secure the environmental-impact statement (EIS) for its Kangaluwi copper project... Vilensky said that he was confident that the company had addressed all concerns in relation to the EIS, and had been advised of Presidential and government support for the project to move ahead. "We look forward to receipt of the required EIS approval and... are focused on what needs to be done to get this company into production" he added.'

See the Livingstone Weekly blog here

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Pioneering biogas project for Livingstone

A pioneering project for Livingstone aims to harvest a non-native invasive plant, the water hyacinth, from Livingstone sewage works where it flourishes, to produce commercial biogass.

As part of the Energy and Environment Partnership Programme (EEP) for Southern and East Africa, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Finland, the pilot project in Livingstone, southern Zambia, will use water hyacinth plants for biogas production on a commercial basis, as well as producing fertiliser as a by-product. The project aims to serve up to four local tourism hotels with green energy, as well as a model domestic scheme. The water hyacinths biomass will be harvested from the wastewater treatment ponds on a regular basis. Waste sludge produced will be used to support a small banana plantation on the site.

The invasive plant, native to South America, is detrimental to the local ecology when it escapes into natural areas, growing in dense rafts, and is extremely difficult to eradicate. The Livingstone Sewage Works suffers from an infestation of the plant which affects its operational efficiency. The project hopes to alleviate the environmental threat of untreated sewage water discharging into the Zambezi River, and also the water hyacinth escaping into the river, just above the world heritage site of Victoria Falls. The sewage works have struggled to cope with the recent growth of Livingstone town and is sceduled for expansion work.

The company Livingfalls BioPower Ltd. has been created as a vehicle for building and operating the project for Southern Water and Sewerage Company in Livingstone.

Read more here. Further information on wastewater projects here.

Barren future for Africa's soils

The Soil Atlas of Africa was presented to the Afican Union in Addis Ababa last week after five years of expert collaboration between the AU, the EU and the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation. The scientists hope that their new report and atlas on the soils of Africa will help to reconnect the continent’s people to their roots and raise awareness about the critical significance of soil to human existence and the authors suggest that the importance of soil is not widely understood.
“Part of the problem is that with an increasingly urban society, many people have lost contact with the processes that produce food. Most people expect to find goods on the shelves of supermarkets and have limited appreciation of the role played by soil.”
One of the most critical findings is that Africa’s soils are running out of vooma. Simply put, the soil is losing nutrients faster than fertilisers can be added. The authors say many of the soils of Africa are severely degraded by erosion and excessive nutrient depletion. On average, African farmers can afford to apply only 10 percent of the fertilising nutrients that farmers in the rest of the world return to the soil.
Adding to the problem is the fact that more than half of Africa’s land surface is made up of sandy soils (22 percent), shallow stony soils (17 percent) and young, weakly developed soils (11 percent). Deserts and drylands make up 60 percent of the land surface and fertile areas are under growing pressure because of the global trend to grow cash crops for export.
“Using state-of-the-art computer mapping techniques, the Soil Atlas of Africa shows the changing nature of soil across the continent. It explains the origin and functions of soil and describes the different soil types and their relevance to both local and global issues.”
Read full article here, and more background here. Photographic credit here

Monday 6 May 2013

Zambia lifts ban on timber exports

The Post, Zambia
04 May 2013

The Zambian Government should urgently transform the forestry department to ensure proper monitoring and management of forestry resources following the lifting of an export ban on timber, an industry body said yesterday.

Commenting on the lifting of the ban, the Zambian National Forest Conservation Organisation said the management of forestry affairs in the country was still scattered and uncoordinated with limited institutional enforcement and policy support to ensure proper monitoring and management of forestry resources. "In as much as we welcome the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Wylbur Simuusa's lifting of the timber ban with necessary conditions to protect forest resources, we are calling on the government to undertake a Forestry Department transformation process supported by a well-developed forestry policy framework to enable the department to enforce and monitor the new conditions," said Green Siame, National Forest Conservation Organisation executive director. "If the Forestry Department is to monitor and manage the forestry resources effectively, steps must be taken to improve staff levels and motivation, improved office infrastructure, appropriate technology response and provision of reliable transport for patrols and other forest management programmes."

Siame further said the department also needed to improve collaboration with local community members and stipulate clear-cut benefits sharing mechanisms with them. "As a forest conservation organisation, we are more concerned with the alarming rate of deforestation in Zambia than timber merchants trading freely and independently at the cost of poor community participation in sustainable forest management programmes," said Siame.

LCCI further added that the lifting of the timber export ban would create a positive environment for its members who were willing to follow the government's laid down procedures and conditions to do business. The government last year suspended the issuance of timber licences to protect the depleting forests around the country.

Read full article here.