Profit and the Environment

What is it about the human species that causes them to destroy the natural world for profit without even considering the overall impact this will have on the rest of its inhabitants, be they human or animal?

Only a few days ago. the High Court of Zambia ruled that the controversial Kangaluwi open-cast copper mine project will go ahead in the heart of the Lower Zambezi National park. They dismissed an appeal against the mine on a legal technicality because the initial legal team that fought the case five years ago failed to file a record of appeal. 

What sort of legalistic jargon is that? My own humble opinion is that a great deal of money will have changed hands in order for that verdict to be reached. That probably sounds cynical but I know my Africa.

The news of the mine opening is sending shock waves through the Zambian and regional tourism community. The Lower Zambezi National Park is one of tourism’s major economic contributors and the lodges in and around the park employ hundreds of local people, supporting thousands more in the communities on its periphery. The mine threatens this thriving business and the livelihoods of everyone involved in tourism in the Lower Zambezi Valley. It also threatens to derail Zambia’s recently unveiled tourism growth strategy which hinges on the country’s commitment to protecting its wilderness areas.

The Lower Zambezi National Park sits directly opposite Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools park, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Having already been threated over decades with the proposed Mupata Gorge dam project, now Mana will face inevitable degradation by the opening of this new horror. The site of the mine is between two seasonal rivers which flow directly into the Zambezi. Its tailings dams will be located just a few hundred metres above the valley floor, next to these rivers. The risk of pollution and collateral damage to the environment is huge, as is the impact the mine will have on wildlife in the area.

The licence for the mine is held by Mwembeshi Resources Ltd, but it is unclear where its owners, Grand Resources Ltd are based. They are registered in Dubai but suspicions are rife that they are Chinese owned. What a surprise!! Chinese nationals seem to be behind every nefarious deal or criminal enterprise going on throughout Southern Africa. They care not a jot for the welfare of people, wildlife or the environment and having raped the jungles of Asia, they are busy doing the same thing to Africa.

Unless another appeal is lodged quickly, the mine company will soon move onto the site and begin the work of clearing it. The beautifully wild lower Zambezi will become yet another modern industrial site and its wonderful wildlife will disappear for ever.

On the other side of the world, a similar and possibly even more devastating tragedy is taking place. A few months ago, the world was up in arms at the outbreak of huge fires in the Amazon Basin. The fires were put down to the various companies engaged in clearing timber from the area and an international outcry ensued before everything went quiet and the outside world subsided into its usual uncaring lethargy.

Now we learn that the deforestation situation in the Brazilian Amazon has dramatically deteriorated, even since the fires. Alerts from the DETER satellite monitoring system, run by the National Institute of Space Research indicate that deforestation increased by two hundred and twenty-two percent in August, compared with August last year, and by ninety-six percent in September, compared with September of 2018.

Altogether, seven thousand, six hundred and four square kilometers of rainforest were felled during the first nine months of this year, an eighty-five percent increase over the same period last year. The Amazon fires were a direct result of this massive amount of deforestation as agribusiness and land grabbers burned away the dried out trees that had been felled, creating ash which helps fertilize grass to feed the cattle herds that will move in to replace the forests.

Deforestation rates are rising rapidly again for two reasons: it is a very profitable activity, and the government is doing little to stop it, say the experts.

Logging, land grabbing and mining, often carried out illegally on protected land, are making some unscrupulous operators very rich. So far, the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has done nothing to inhibit their activities. His  government is actually encouraging land grabbers to deforest and the world remains silent.

Bolsonaro and others in his administration claim that much Amazon burning is legally done by small-scale farmers, but local people insist that the clearing is generally well organized and done by various groups of criminals. Some fell the forest, others extract and sell the valuable timber, and others set fire to the vegetation and then plant pasture. There is yet another group that finds stooges, who allow their identities to be used to register the land. In this way they get around the legal limits on land ownership by a single individual.

Carrying out this systematic large-scale deforestation does not come cheap but the rewards can be enormous: The gangs are betting that at some moment in the future the Brazilian state will give into pressure and remove the protected status currently enjoyed by this land. It will then be worth a fortune.”

If necessary, the land grabbers can wait. “Men who carry out speculative deforestation are in for the long haul,” explained a local inhabitant who did not want to be identified. “They will wait until next year to burn what they are felling this year if need be. They’re not interested in immediately getting the land to produce, but rather in eventually selling it at a huge profit.”

Without those forests, the world will destroy itself yet money in the bank is deemed of far more importance than the future of humanity.

Where are Greta Thunberg and her Extinction Rebellion followers with this potential catastrophe. It seems that they are only interested in centres of civilisation while the wild places are left to fend for themselves.

What a selfish and uncaring species of mammal we are.

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