THE Zambezi basin, whose main flow is the Zambezi river, is one of Africa’s most important basins. It’s a natural asset shared by Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique. This ecosystem directly supports the livelihoods of over 47 million people as it is the main source of fish, and fresh water for household, agriculture, health, and industrial use (like electricity generation) for populations in these countries.
The Zambezi basin is also a network of important ecosystems and is home to some of Africa’s most Important wildlife and water tourism destinations. Simply put, the Zambezi basin is the most significant shared resource that contributes to economic, environmental, and social development of Southern Africa. Sustainable management of this resource is therefore crucial in securing the futures of over 250 million people in the region who depend on it.
Due to its abundant natural resources and the ever-increasing needs of the growing local populations, the basin attracts a range of investments. The way these investments are identified, designed, sequenced, and financed can either deliver opportunities for the basin or destroy the futures of majority populations on the basin.
One such investment which needs careful consideration is the proposed Kangaluwi copper mining project in Lower Zambezi by Mwembeshi Resources Limited.
The proposed site for the mine lies inside the Lower Zambezi National Park (LZNP), an International Conservation Union (lUCN) category 11 protected area. The Lower Zambezi National Park provides refuge to globally threatened wildlife species such as elephants and wild dogs and is home to unique vegetation that include Zambezi endemics and the only protected and intact lowland deciduous thickets in the Southern African region.
If the mine goes ahead, it poses a severe threat to the communities within the region as well as downstream where the risk of contaminating water is extremely high. This would impact communities in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Mining activities in the region can potentially destroy farming and fishing livelihoods and one of the largest tourism destinations for Zambian and Zimbabwe. While Zambia should benefit from the use of the mineral resources it is endowed with, it cannot do so at the expense of its people and communities in neighbouring countries who have no connection to the mine.
Local communities depend on the area’s renewable resources for water, fishing, agriculture, tourism, and forestry. River pollution caused by the mine could threaten the mighty Zambezi river’s 2,000-ton subsistence fishery, which provides food and protein security to 20,000 people along the river’s banks.
Eco-tourism in the area depends largely on the renewable wildlife and habitat resources and contributes significantly to the local and national economies around the LZNP. Tourism establishments in the park and surrounding Game Management Areas (GMAs) employ more than 1,000 local people, generating a local wage bill of $4 million annually that indirectly supports thousands more people at local community level.
The mine also threatens upcoming conservation projects such as the $12.S million Lower Zambezi Flagship Species Restoration project which received approval from the Ministry of Tourism and Arts in 2018. The project aims to bring back locally extinct species such as the black rhino and eland, thereby restoring biodiversity and improving ecosystem processes in the area.
In addition, the Lower Zambezi National Park shares boundaries with the Mana Pools World Heritage site to the south and is also being considered for designation as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Although the mine is expected to cover about 980 km2, which is about 2S% of the park, it is estimated that more than 50% of the national park will be lost (the entire northern part of the park). This means that the primary reasons for which the park was initially established will be lost forever.
The threat that the proposed mining operation poses to the Zambezi River ecosystem was also highlighted by the late Dr Kenneth Kaunda, whose recent passing we deeply mourn. Dr Kaunda said the mine planned for Lower Zambezi National Park “poses the biggest threat in history to the wildlife and pristine wilderness that has survived so many centuries of challenges”. We could not have said it better. We urge our leaders to honour his legacy, by protecting this area.
It is clear that the potential long-term impacts of this mine and the environmental threat it poses to the renewable resources of the Zambezi River ecosystem far outweigh any short-term benefits. We therefore implore the Government and others in places of authority to carefully considered the harmful social, economic, and environmental effects that will surely result from the proposed mining project, and to act decisively to ensure a Safe and Secure Zambezi, for generations to come.
You can also make your voice heard on this matter by signing the petition below. Sign the petition
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