Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Zambia: Biodiversity is Under Threat, Says Mulele

The Post (Lusaka)

August 21, 2006
Posted to the web August 21, 2006

Carol Jilombo

BIODIVERSITY in Zambia is under threat from habitat destruction and Invasive Alien Species (IAS), Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary Russell Mulele has said.

During the launch of the UNEP/GEF IAS project on removing barriers to invasive plant management in Africa in Lusaka, Mulele said it was common knowledge that invasive alien species had continued to pose threats to biodiversity, the environment and associated economic activities in Zambia.

Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are species that are foreign to the eco-system under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm.

The species can also cause harm to human health.

"Current levels and trends of encroachment by invasive species are worrying and the situation has resulted in calls for drastic and concerted efforts before the situation deteriorates," Mulele said. He said Zambia had not been spared from the invasion of plant invasive species that caused social, economic and biological problems in the national economy.

"For example, in 1998 we declared the Kafue weed (Water hyacinth) as a national disaster," Mulele said.

He said efforts put in place to manage the threats posed by the invasive plants had not yielded the desired results because the problem still persisted and the rate at which it was spreading was a source of worry to the nation.

"Despite control efforts by various stakeholders, the weeds have spread and continued to grow profusely in most rivers and Wetlands, thus highlighting the need to intensify monitoring, mitigation and management measures," he said.

Mulele said the aim of the project was to reduce or remove barriers to the management of invasive plant species through effective implementation of Article 8(h) of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the four pilot projects of Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia. Article 8(h) states that parties are required to put in place conservation measures and as far as possible and as appropriate to prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate alien species, which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species.

Mulele said the project would address issues that had hindered effective management of invasive alien species in Zambia.

"These are a weak and fragmented policy and institutional framework, lack of information, slow implementation of invasive alien species prevention and control plus lack of capacity for sustainable invasive alien species management," he said.

Mulele said the barriers were translated into four project components, the successful implementation of which would save the nation millions of kwacha in controlling the invasive species.'

The Global Environmental Facility (GEP) through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) funds the project while the government will meet the co-financing part.

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