By Andrew Njovu
The Key theme; under the SOCIAL TEACHING OF THE CHURCH is ‘ the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of life’. This theme is in fact central to the social teaching of the Church and all other themes derive their relevance from the same.
In 1987 the three church mother bodies namely Zambia Episcopal conference(ZEC) Christian Council of Zambia (CCZ) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia(EFZ) issued a statement on environment entitled “God’s creation’ in which they said “ our Christian mission demands that we give ourselves to the task of restoring the beauty and harmony of God’s creation”, This was a very inspiring pronouncement, but never followed with way forward.
‘the Boar from the forest strip the vine, the beast of the field feeds upon it” (Ps 80;14). Yes indeed it is the poor and powerless who most bear the burden of the current environmental carelessness. It is for this reason that, the protection of the environment must be a serious concern for all of us.
In 2004, the same mother church bodies again issued another statement in which they said “ Africa is endowed with rich natural resources.
Unfortunately we have not taken the best care for this environment on which we depend for our survival”
In 1991, Pope John Paul 2nd in his encyclical entitled ‘ one hundred years ( centesimus annus) said ‘ not only has God given the earth to woman and man- who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to them- but woman and man too are God’s gift to woman and man”
In 1995 Pope John Paul 2nd again writing on environmental protection said “ the dominion granted to man by the creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to use and misuse or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator Himself and expressed symbo9lically by the prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the tree ( Gen. 1 16-17) shows clearly enough that when it comes to the natural world, we are subjected not only to biological laws, but also to moral ones which cannot be violated with impunity”.
In 2 Cor. 4 ;15 St Paul says ‘ you see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be to the glory of God” St Paul goes on to say that” Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do of all, do it for the glory of God. Never do anything offensive to anyone –or the Church of God” 1 Cor 10;31.
The serious damage done to nature, to forests, to flora and fauna and to countless species due to our carelessness threatens the entire ecosystem and consequently the survival of humanity . We are all to blame and there should be no finger pointing.
There is no doubt that our three church mother bodies are greatly concerned about environmental pollution and degradation going on in our country. However our church mother bodies should have gone further than just issuing pastoral statements. They should learn from our sister church in Zimbabwe who have fully utilized their laity, the Christian Professionals in that country. In 2006/2007 the Christian Professionals led by the Catholic professional network went into a retreat and after hard work came up with a document “ THE ZIMBABWE WE WANT”.
Faced with a sharply deteriorating political situation, marked by confrontation and political intimidation, the Christian professionals of that country proposed a National strategy of engagement, dialogue and transformation. The Result was a production of a discussion document ‘ the ZIMBABWE WE WANT, TOWARDS A NATION VISION FOR ZIMBABWE’. That document miraculously led to the signing of the “GLOBAL POLITICAL AGREEMENT’ in SEPTEMBER 2008.
The Church in Zimbabwe should be applauded for fully utilizing the abilities of their laity and Christian professionals. Regrettably the Church in Zambia has done little if any to encourage their Christian professionals to address the pressing needs of the country and we have plenty of these pressing needs where the church could play a significant role.
And the area of Environment is probably one such are where the church could mobilize its Christian professionals and encourage them to come up with a way forward.
One would have thought that after those joint pastoral statements on environment, our Church leaders were going to constitute some think tank among their laity to come up with a researched document on behalf of the Church for presentation and discussion with Government.
May be they are yet to do this, but time if running out. I want to urge the three Church mother bodies to now consider advocacy work on the need to harmonize the twenty one(21) pieces of legislation in this country which have been put in place to address and control environmental pollution.
In their current state, these pieces of legislation do not seem to serve their intended purpose. Indeed some of them are outdated and need revisiting to bring them in line with the challenges that threaten our very survival..
The twenty one(21) pieces of legislation which needs revisiting and harmonizing are
1.Mines and Minerals act, 2. Agricultural lands act 3. The Factories act 4.the investment act 5. The tourism act. 6. The land and conversion of title act. 7.State land reserves and trust land act 8.
The environmental protection and pollution control act 9. The natural resources conservation act 10.the Town and country planning act 11 the water act. 12.
The fisheries act 13. The National parks and wildlife act 14. The Public health act 15. Local Government act 16.the local administration(trade effluent) regulations 17. Ionizing radiation act.18. mineral exploration act 19. Gas and Oil exploration act 20 Explosives act 21. Zambezi river authority act. And others.
Meanwhile the Zambia Environmental Council (ECZ) should revisit their regulations governing “Environmental Impact Assessments” and ensure that these regulations are tightened and strictly enforced.
The regulations could include provisions that any developer proposing a project above one hundred thousand kwacha(K100,000;) be compelled to submit an Environment Impact Assessment plan which I believe is not the case at the moment. There seem to be no mention of how much the developer is putting in the project for him to be comply with Environmental Impact Assessment regulations.
We need to be specific, if we are going to seriously address the challenges of environmental pollution and degradation. The Environmental Council of Zambia have been a late down, possibly due to inadequate funding.
However they should engage local authorities and all local authorities should be compelled to establish an environmental Departments, unlike at the moment when this is done through the Engineering department of the councils. Although Government and with good intention have the above legal framework to control environmental pollution in the country, there has been no political will to strictly enforce those laws.
A good example may be the “FACTORIES ACT” which is supposed to be administered by the ministry of labour. But this is the ministry which is handicapped in terms of staffing and funding and therefore rarely visit construction sites and other places.
By revisiting the above pieces of legislation and harmonizing their operations and encouraging other stakeholders to participate in their enforcement, we may be nearer to finding a solution to issues of environmental pollution in this country.
The author is member of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and current chairperson for the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection(JCTR) Kasama outreach team. The author is also recipient of World Bank award in good governance. Email: email@example.com