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CEJ Supports Government’s Tough Stance on Uncontrolled Bush Fires

The Centre for Environment Justice (CEJ) has expressed its full support for President Hakainde Hichilema’s declaration of the prolonged dry spell in Zambia as a National Disaster and Emergency due to uncontrolled bush fires.

Maggie Mapalo Mwape, Executive Director of CEJ, emphasized the seriousness of the President’s statement, particularly in light of Green Economy and Environment Minister Collins Nzovu’s affirmation that setting fire to bush areas is a criminal offense.

Ms. Mwape highlighted that CEJ had previously addressed the issue of forest fires during its Environmental Protection Dialogue (EPD2023) Traditional Leaders Caucus, where they advocated for regional dialogues on the matter.

CEJ is now gearing up to initiate regional Traditional Leaders Dialogues, starting with North Western Zambia, followed by Northern, Luapula, and other regions, culminating in the 2024 Traditional Leaders Caucus at EPD2024.

Referring to Zambia’s Constitution, Ms. Mwape underscored the severity of the law regarding bush fires, citing Section 330 of the Penal Code.

According to this provision, individuals who deliberately and unlawfully set fire to crops, hay or grass under cultivation, as well as standing trees, saplings, or shrubs, are subject to a felony charge and imprisonment for up to fourteen years.

Ms. Mwape urged the government to take strict enforcement measures, ensuring that those found guilty of starting fires in fields, grasslands, forests, bushlands, rangelands, valleys, and swamps face the appropriate punishment as stipulated in Zambia’s Constitution.

CEJ’s communication unit reiterated their commitment to environmental protection and called for collective efforts to combat the menace of bush fires, emphasizing the need for stringent enforcement of existing laws to safeguard Zambia’s natural resources.

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