Thousands of Zambians face displacement over dam project

dam construction

Over 2000 households in the chief Chisele area of Solwezi, about 100 kilometers northwestern of the capital Lusaka, face displacement over the structure of a controversial dam

Over 2000 households in the chief Chisele area of Solwezi, about 100 kilometers northwestern of the capital Lusaka, face displacement over the structure of a controversial dam, whose structure is going ahead despite a protection order by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), resident of the area, told Anadolu Agency.

“The construction of the dam will not only displace us, but will destroy our farms and homes where people have lived for many years,” Chileya Mebelo, a local resident of the area, told Anadolu Agency.

“There is no guarantee that we will be compensated for the loss we are going to suffer.”

Dante Saunders, another local, wondered why the government had allowed the project without first taking care of the interest of the local community whose farms and villages are being demolished.

The ZEMA has issued an Environmental Protection Order to the First Quantum Minerals (FQM), the proponents of Kalumbila Minerals Limited, to stop its contrusction of the controversial Chisola Dam.

Irene Chipili, the ZEMA Principal Information and Communication Officer, said Kalumbila Mine obtained 50,000 hectares of land for their project in Chief Musele in Solwezi.

“Kalumbila Mine applied for additional components to their project which included the Chisola dam,” she told AA.

“But concerns were raised regarding authorisation of such huge amount of land, compensation and resettlement of people…Against this background, ZEMA issued a protection order restraining FQM from continuing with the project.”

According to Chipili, the government has set up an inter-ministerial task force to investigate the allegations and the committee established that Kalumbila mine obtained the 50,000-hectare surface rights irregularly without presidential consent as required by the law.

She said the task force directed that no further approvals were to be given to the mine by any government wing until the surface rights were settled.

“The resolution of the surface right area of Government will form the basis of the agency’s decision-making process as regards Chisola dam.”


Land Minister Wilbur Simuusa told AA that the government had given Kalumbila mine three options regarding the future of the Chisola dam.

“Government held a meeting on July 10 with Kalumbila Mine management to discuss the protection order to halt the construction of Chisola dam,” he explained.

“We reached the conclusion that a strategic environmental impact assessment be conducted to determine the effect to the region arising from the structure of the dam and the Copperbelt Energy Corporation Hydro power project on Kabompo River.”

However, Simuusa revealed that the government gave Kalumbila Mine the right to proceed with the construction of the dam on the condition that should the strategic environmental assessment find the construction undesirable, the mine would bear the cost of the dam demolition.

“The other option was for the mine to wait for the strategic environmental assessment to be concluded and then make informed decisions and actions. The final and third option was to find an alternative site to construct the dam.”

The US$2. 4 billion project is set to be complete in July 2014.

Morris Nsamalilo, the chairman of the Musele Community Task Force, expressed shock that government allowed the construction of the dam while the protection order was in force.

“This is an act of betrayal. Government should have put the interests of its citizens first, before allowing the investors to proceed with the project,” he said in a statement.

Nsamalilo insists that the construction of the dam will cause more harm than good to the local community.