WWF and partners petition President Lungu to declare the Luangwa a Water Resource Protection Area. | WWF Zambia

WWF and partners petition President Lungu to declare the Luangwa a Water Resource Protection Area.

Posted on
19 June 2018
On 12th June 2018, The World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Zambia and its partners launched a petition to President Edgar Lungu to declare the Luangwa a Water Resource Protection Area. This was at a high-level stakeholders meeting held as part of a campaign dubbed “Keep the Luangwa Flowing”. The campaign is part of a global initiative that aims to identify and protect the World’s last remaining free flowing rivers. The Luangwa River was identified as one of the longest remaining free-flowing rivers in Zambia and is one of the biggest unaltered rivers in Southern Africa. Its seasonal changes support a vibrant local community and a growing tourism industry that is entirely based on the rich wildlife and beautiful scenery of this catchment.

Unfortunately, the ecosystem services that the river provides are threatened by hydropower development, deforestation and unsustainable commercial agriculture, among other things. The most imminent challenge is the proposed dam at Ndevu Gorge, which would transform the river leading to loss of natural capital on which livelihoods, wildlife-based economies, and heritage values are founded. The aim of the campaign is to provide legal protection for the Luangwa River as a Water Resource Protection Area under the Water Act of 2011, thereby safeguarding it from current and future threats such as the proposed dam.  

The meeting provided a platform for stakeholders to discuss the value of the Luangwa River and the need to keep it free and unaltered. It was graced by the Minister of Tourism and Arts, Hon. Charles Banda, Eastern Province Minister, Hon. Makebi Zulu and Snr. Chief Luembe of the Nsenga people in Nyimba among other stakeholders from the Luangwa area, the diplomatic community, government, civil society and the media.
In her welcoming remarks, WWF Country Director Nachilala Nkombo explained why it was in Zambia’s best interest that the Lunagwa River be kept free-flowing. “Modifying the flow of rivers through activities such as building a dam would adversely interrupt their connectivity. This interruption then disrupts the lives and activities of people, industries, wildlife and fish that depend on it” said Nkombo.

Nkombo urged stakeholders to learn lessons from the recent water crisis in Cape Town, South Africa and the significant reduction in water flows in Zambia’s rivers such as the Luangwa and Chongwe.  She added that WWF and its partners were not against development as they understood its importance in a growing economy such as Zambia. She emphasised the need to adopt a sound energy planning process that takes into account all energy sources and with the least impact on existing economies and ecosystems; ensuring that the right dams are built on the right rivers.
Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism and Arts, Hon. Charles Banda explained that government remained committed to attaining Zambia’s vision 2030 with an adequately functioning environment that encompasses sustainable development for the nation. He commended WWF and partners for the campaign, mentioning that maintaining the Luangwa as a free-flowing river would add to the fight of the adverse effects of climate change.

“The value of a free-flowing Luangwa cannot be undermined in the face of climate change that has started to affect our country in a significant manner. On the 20th of September 2016, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu appended Zambia’s signature to the UN’s Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to reiterate our government’s commitment to building a climate smart economy” said Hon. Charles Banda.

And Senior Chief Luembe, whose chiefdom is in close proximity to the proposed site for the Ndevu Gorge dam echoed the need to have the right dams built on the right rivers.
“We need to build the right dams on the right rivers, the Luangwa River is not the best place for a dam. My friends from the Gwembe Valley are yet to recover from the impacts of the Kariba dam. The proposed Ndevu Gorge dam is 7km from my chiefdom. Building this dam will flood mine and surrounding chiefdoms, we will all be destitute”. Chief Luembe said”

Supported by a robust advocacy and communications strategy, the “Keep the Luangwa Flowing” campaign aims to secure 100,000 signatures from locals to petition the President, His Excellency Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu to declare the Luangwa a Water Resource Protection Area.

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