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Environmental degradation threat

Rapid industrialisation, air pollution and uncontrolled human settlement are just a few of the ecological challenges that Zambia has to grapple with in the coming years, according to Minister of the Environment William Harrington.

In a speech to mark World Environment Day this week, Harrington said that the most polluted areas were the central Copperbelt region because of the mining industry and oil refining, and the southeastern coal mining district of Maamba.

In the Copperbelt over 200,000 mt of sulphur dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere annually. These emission levels exceeded both government limitations and recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO). A build-up of toxins in the soil near smelters has also proven to be a problem.

An environmentalist told IRIN that if these toxins stayed in the soil for long periods of time, they could eventually find their way into the food chain, “posing a health risk to both animals and humans and killing off plants in the area.”

According to Harrington, the control of pesticides and toxic substances was another important environmental problem facing the country. He said that despite the government regulation which calls for the registration of all pesticides, the problem was in the “inappropriate handling, use and disposal of these chemicals.”

Harrington said that up until 1997, over 340 mt of obsolete pesticides had been exposed to the environment. He added that most of these were found in the Lusaka area, Mazabuka in the central district and the Copperbelt.

The minister said that an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 hectares of forest were also destroyed each year by people making space for farming and in their quest for firewood.

“Because of the rampant destruction of out forests most of our river systems are threatened with flash floods and siltation,” he said. “The economic consequences of the clogging of our rivers with silt are far too serious to contemplate, given the role of our water systems in power generation, fisheries, tourism, transport and domestic and industrial water supply,” Harrington concluded.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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