Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Zambia's National Policy on Environment of 1995 yet to be ratified?...

Zambia has an area of 752,614 km2 located at an altitude between 2,164
and 350m with a most equable climate, largely on the Central African
Plateau, with four major biomes consisting of forest, woodland, grassland
and aquatic systems. These encompass large parts of the Zambezi and
Congo drainage systems and it is thus probably the best watered country
in Africa. It is endowed with a wealth of natural resources within 16
ecosystems with landscapes that include extensive forests, grassy plains,
hills and steep escarpments; huge lakes and rivers, deep valleys and
ecologically rich wetlands together with areas of anthropic origin such as
cropland, plantation forests and urban settlements.

All development programmes are undertaken against this environmental
background and depend to some extent upon natural resources. Above
all, the country is mainly a primary commodity producer of non-renewable
resources that require special care, management and application. It is
within this context that, with planned economic growth, the ensuing
increase in resource utilisation can only be sustained through application
of a national policy to protect and manage the environment. The country
at present faces daunting challenges of de-forestation at the rate of 250-
300 thousand ha per year; land degradation in many places verging on
desertification; wildlife depletion especially in the protected areas and all
accompanied by soil erosion, loss of productivity, inadequate sanitation
and air and water pollution.

The relationship between widespread poverty, with a national mean of
around 73% of the population living below the poverty line determined by
the Central Statistical Office, 1997 and environmental degradation, is
clear since 62% of the population lives within the rural areas where
dependence upon natural resources for livelihood is on the increase.
For example, some 60% of the total land area is covered by forest. Most
of it is degraded through deforestation, encroachment and uncontrolled
bush fires2. This situation has developed mainly as a result of long-
established inappropriate policies that tend to discourage forest
management and appear to favour other forms of land use, very often at
the expense of forests.

The population is growing at the rate of about 2.9% per annum which,
without sufficient public awareness and control, contributes further to a
vicious circle of increasing poverty and increasing depletion of resources.
This central issue is compounded by limited understanding of
environmental problems, a weak administrative and legal framework and
breakdown of traditional values and practices which previously ensured a
high degree of social responsibility and equitable sharing of resources
within a natural equilibrium.

There are 11 government ministries involved in environmental affairs (9 of
these have policies that include concern for environmental matters, some
of which is extremely scanty). There are over 33 sets of legislation
affecting the environment, much of which is inadequate. Zambia has a
dualistic legal framework and is signatory to 21 international conventions
on environment. Yet it is without a single over-arching institutional
arrangement, institution or policy mandated for integration and
collaboration over these issues of national importance.

Deficiencies reflect a historical sector approach to legislation that includes
inadequate incorporation of international standards within national
legislation; that apart from forestry, water and wildlife sectors, there is little
provision for involvement of local communities in the implementation and
enforcement of related legislation; lack of intra and inter-sectoral
institutional arrangements and few coordination mechanisms for effective
integration of legislation. The Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ),
created in 1992 through the Environmental Protection and Pollution
Control Act No. 12 of 1990, has not been able to bring into being the
necessary nationwide collaboration in environmental and natural
resources management largely through lack of resources.

Environment has an estimated budget allocation within the Transitional
National Development Plan of less than 1% of the total. There is thus a
clear requirement to appropriate additional financial resources for
environmental purposes and in particular to strengthen the ECZ.
Current shortfalls include ineffectual mechanisms for community-based
natural resources management. This makes prospects for maintaining
environmental integrity bleak and efforts for poverty reduction and
sustainable development seriously impaired. Lack of formal inter-sectoral
links and limited up-to-date baseline data further hinder the process. In
addition, at a higher level, there are limited national guidelines for
effective integration of international environmental conventions into the
country’s environment and natural resources management efforts.
Management of trans-boundary conservation of natural resources, whilst
being accepted as a key pillar in ecosystem management is not well
supported. There is insufficient provision in development programmes for
environmental education and promotion of gender equity through
inclusion of gender-related activities in project activities and national
agendas and work plans. Enhancement of private sector participation in
environmental and natural resources management, also receives
insufficient support.
Preamble to the draft National Policy on Environment (May, 1995)

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