AfDB meet tackles climate change head-on

Earth Forum-StanslousLAST week, Zambia played host to the 2016 annual meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) meeting whose theme was ‘Energy and Climate Change’.
The meeting reflected the Bank’s New Deal on Energy and the key resolutions from the recent United Nations climate talks Conference of Parties (COP21) on global warming.
The 2016 Annual Meetings theme was aligned with two of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
SDG number seven which seeks to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, and SDG 13 aimed at taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts were the goals aligned with the theme.
The event attracted more than 4,000 delegates.
However, it is important that the meeting focused on energy and climate change because the two issues have significantly affected the social and economic development of the countries.
With various issues discussed I, however, was attracted to President Edgar Lungu’s statement where he has challenged African countries to take a lead in meeting strategies on climate resilience and low carbon development.
President Lungu said the time had come for Africa to take a front seat in meeting strategies on climate resilience and low carbon development.
Yes, no singular region has made a small contribution to climate change than Africa. Yet the continent continues to pay the highest price for failure to avert a global climate catastrophe.
“My message to this meeting is that Africa can lead the world on climate resilience and low carbon development. I am aware that some countries in the region are already implementing climate resilient
measures,” Mr Lungu said.
Drawing from President Lungu’s challenge to the African countries, I also want to throw a challenge to fellow Zambians to find home grown solutions to mitigate some effects of climate change.
We should bear in mind that climate change has emerged as one of the most pressing issues affecting socio-economic development in the country.
The country is already experiencing climate induced hazards, which include drought or dry spells, seasonal and flash floods as well as extreme temperatures.
Some of these hazards, especially the droughts and floods, have increased in frequency and intensity over the past few decades and have adversely impacted on the food and water security.
The quality of water and energy has been compromised thus affecting people lives especially the rural communities.
But I believe, with a newly formulated policy on climate change, Zambia can significantly reduce the effect of climate change.
On the other hand, some of the solutions in my view could perhaps be following the rules and guidelines such as the Environmental Impact Assessment reports when developing projects.
There is a growing tendency of ignoring the EIA report but focussing on the job creation aspect.
For example, when Zambia Environmental Management (ZEMA) says no to a project, that decision should be respected despite the huge number of jobs it would create.
I am sure we are aware of the mining project in some national park; the matter is in court, so I cannot dwell on it.
It is pointless to create jobs at the expense of the health of people whose lives depend on sustainable environmental management.
The country needs to be mindful of the long-term impact of environmental degradation on human life.
The construction of infrastructure on the banks of the river of the frontage is against the rule but there are some lodges that have done so, almost half way into the Zambezi River.
The guidelines are that construction near the river should not be less than 50 meters or away but it is the opposite in most cases.
If you check where some of these known lodges stand along the bank or frontage of the Zambezi River, experts would agree that the developers went against the rules.
But this is the Zambezi River that feeds the Kariba Dam with water. The dam is the country’s main source of hydro power generation but it has recorded an all time lowest water levels.
The common effects of this have affected almost everyone including regulators.
Some developers and regulators have decided ignored rules in preference to promoting tourism and the hospitality industry forgetting or ignoring that sustainable economic growth thrive sustainable management of the environment.
Leaving adequate space on the water frontage allows the river to flow naturally and allow animals whether livestock or wild have access to the river.
Ornithology (a scientist who studies birds are called an ornithologist) would agree with me that there are some birds that make holes on the banks of the river or stream as their nest.
For example, Kingfishers have their nests in tree hollows or holes in the ground beside a river bank or lake.
Kingfishers are known for hunting and eating fish but some kingfishers also eat crustaceans, frogs, insects, spiders, reptiles and mammals.
Bank swallows are also dependent on vertical sandy banks along rivers and lakes as nests.
Therefore, developers ought to understand that the birds and their activities are part of the eco-system.
An ecosystem includes all of the living things (plants, animals and organisms) in a given area, interacting with each other, and also with their non-living environments (weather, earth, sun, soil, climate, and atmosphere).
According to, in an ecosystem, each organism has its’ own niche or role to play.
Another example is the unregulated perforating of the aquifer through drilling of boreholes for water supply by households which has equally affected the environment.
An aquifer is underground layers of rock that are saturated with water that can be brought to the surface through natural springs or by pumping.
Due to poor water supply or lack of it, some households have resolved to drilling boreholes without expert advice resulting into affecting underground water like pollution.
The International River says hydrological alterations have, if not properly done, could have adverse effects on the environment and influence climate change.
The International River is an organisation that seeks to protect rivers and defends the rights of the communities that depends on the water.
Hydrological alteration can be defined as any anthropogenic disruption in the magnitude or timing of natural river flows.
The magnitude and extent of dam construction and associated water diversion, exploitation of groundwater aquifers, stream channelisation, and inter-basin water transfer have environmental effects.
Large dams and river diversions have proven to be primary destroyers of aquatic habitat, contributing substantially to the destruction of fisheries, the extinction of species, and the overall loss of the ecosystem services on which the human economy depends.
The conspicuous impacts of hydrological alteration include habitat fragmentation within dammed rivers downstream habitat effects caused by altered flows, such as loss of floodplains, riparian zones, and adjacent wetlands and deterioration and loss of river deltas.
Deterioration of irrigated terrestrial environments and associated surface waters equally affects the hydrological systems.
Tempering the hydrological systems contributes to dewatering of rivers, leading to reduced water quality because of dilution problems for point and non–point sources of pollution.
A number of major rivers are so overexploited, and in this regard, I hope the Zambezi River has not been overexploited too, because there are too many activities on the river.
Perhaps, overexploitation of the river could be the reason why the Kariba Dam that draws water from the river has been running low.
Moreover, the Zambezi River is shared by more than one country.
Large-scale hydrological alteration leads to a suite of interrelated environmental impacts.
Dam construction is especially inimical to the biodiversity of aquatic fauna because of the alteration of natural seasonal flow patterns to which the fauna has become adapted over time, the blockage of normal seasonal migrations, and the resultant fragmentation of populations.
The normal source/sink characteristics of natural terrestrial and aquatic habitats for greenhouse gases are disrupted by inundation, leading to the production and emission of large quantities of these gases and contributing to global warming potential.
Therefore, if you look at these issues, I believe home grown solutions could be found and it does not need the Conference of Parties to help the country on the sustainable management of both underground and surface.
On the other hand, I want to commend the Government for  establishing the Water Resource Management Authority (WARMA).
I urge WARMA to sharpen its teeth and make itself relevant.
Moreover, the country now has a new specific policy on climate change which should deal with the issue directly. I end here today.
ENVIRONMENTAL TIP: Did you know that plants are major producers of oxygen that humans and animals breathe?
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