Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Contravention of town planning regulations
By Editor
Mon 15 July 2013, 14:00 CAT

A responsible and respectful use of the environment is an urgent duty for all of us today. Therefore, we must all collaborate in the care for the environment. Individuals and institutions must feel committed to protect the environment. We must all show respect for the integrity of creation.

The environment must be preserved, resources must not be used wastefully. The moral character of development cannot exclude respect for the beings which constitute the true natural world.

It is extremely worrying that in our efforts to develop our country, we are ignoring the need to preserve the environment. The letter by environmental advocate Kunda Chimambo to President Michael Sata raises a number of issues that cannot be ignored. We may not be in a position to ascertain the correctness of his claims concerning the Lusaka South Multi-Facility Economic Zone not having had an environmental impact assessment and that the project threatens to contaminate the source of underground water located in the area. But we share Chimambo's concerns about poor town planning and enforcement. Today it seems in Zambia one can put up anything anywhere they want it to be as long as they have the money to buy the land concerned. Dambos that used to be reserved for water collection have disappeared, residential houses and shopping malls have been built on them. Water channels have been blocked, causing floods here and there. Some water sources have been destroyed by construction, drying up whole areas. Parks that were reserved with trees and other plants are being destroyed or have been destroyed, shopping malls are being built on them. Some of them are very close to streams, and these are being polluted in all sorts of ways. Why should we exchange parks for shopping malls as if we have run out of space where such developments can take place?

Of course, we know that in this country people with money insist to build whatever they want wherever they want it and are allowed to do so. Today, even University of Zambia land is being turned over to those who want to construct shopping malls just next to another shopping mall. Is this the best way to utilise that land? If the University of Zambia land is being used for shopping malls, where are research institutes going to be located? In the shopping malls? Yes, we do appreciate the challenges of funding, the need to raise money, but this is certainly not the best way to raise money. There is very little money that is going to come out of that destruction of university land. But again, those who wanted to use that land in that manner have the money and with their deep pockets, nothing is impossible. What will the University of Zambia look like in 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years with all these things they are doing to its land? We seem to care little about the future. The present seems to owe us everything and the future nothing.

This may not seem to be much of a problem today. But the future generation will pay highly for all this destruction of the ecosystem. While it is true that we have been given the created world in all its richness and diversity, creation is not ours to do with it as we choose. We show our respect for the Creator by the way in which we relate to all that God has created, the things of which the Book of Genesis says: "God saw that they were good…"

We are called to a stewardship which we have to exercise with due reverence and responsibility. Our economic activity must respect the inherent goodness, indeed, the holiness, of the created world. Activities which result in ecological destruction or which unduly deplete natural resources are not only an abuse of what has been given to us, but a denial of that gift to others, especially to future generations.

We think that the idea of the future world is the most important and most noble idea that a good citizen of this world can harbour. Good people have always fought for the future. To fight for the future, however, does not mean to avoid doing every day what must be done for the present. These two ideas must not be confused.

It is possible for our country to devote a great part of its efforts to that struggle for the future, to that struggle against the destruction of the environment that is crushing us all. It is not a struggle against development, but a struggle for a more humane, responsible and fair development.

The environment is the living space we share with plants, trees and rocks, rivers and lakes. The integrity of creation must be respected in all human activities or we have no future.

Good citizenship demands us to do what Chimambo is doing; it demands that we give ourselves to the task of restoring the beauty and harmony of God's creation. Our country is a gift from God and we must develop it for the good and welfare of all its people.

Ownership to a piece of land does not entitle us to deal with that land as we please. There should be controls from the civic authorities in the interest of the common good. Ownership is therefore really a stewardship of property given by God to owners for the benefit of all.
The protection of the environment must be a serious concern for our wellbeing. God's creation is a precious gift for all, both those of us alive today and the future generations.

"The earth is for the Lord and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it, for He has founded it upon the seas and established it on rivers" (Ps 24:1).

The rampant contravention and flouting of town and city planning regulations must be put to an end. This anarchy and irresponsibility cannot be allowed to continue if we value the future of our people and our country. Whatever needs to be demolished, because of its illegality, should be demolished in the interest of the environment.

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