ENVIRONMENTALIST William Harrington says the commissioning of the Makeni flyover by President Edgar Lungu amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic is the height of irresponsibility and recklessness.
Scores of Lusaka residents converged at the commissioning ceremony on Monday.
Harrington said the government had been in the forefront of sensitising citizens on the dangers of the pandemic and the need to observe guidelines on preventing its spread but was on the other hand now in the forefront of disrespecting its own guidelines by holding a function which attracted many people and thereby putting their lives at great risk.
“This irresponsible and insensitive conduct of government is unacceptable and it borders on ‘attempted murder’ of innocent citizens,” he said.
Harrington said another matter of great concern was that the government had spent huge sums of taxpayers’ money on the function for marquees, logistics as well as security at a time when the country was going through a socio-economic crisis.
“At such a critical time that the country is experiencing, the function was realistically not necessary except clearly for political expediency. How can any responsible government expend such a sum of money on commissioning a simple project amidst an environmental crisis in Chawama Constituency in which the flyover is constructed?” he asked.
Harrington said Chawama just like many other unplanned settlements around the country was suffering from a serious environmental crisis.
“In 1994 when I was privileged to serve as minister of Environment and Natural Resources, I was privy to a report confirming that there were over 60,000 pit latrines and an almost equal number of shallow wells on which the local inhabitants depend for survival,” he said. “This statistic has not changed for the better. Surely any responsible government would prioritise environmental issues as opposed to a quite unnecessary perceived campaign gimmick. The Makeni flyover bridge is not the first one to be constructed in Zambia and will perhaps not be last one.”
Harrington said the people of Chawama nearby were living in filth, squalor and unsanitary conditions due to failure and neglect by civic authorities to address the environmental crisis and concerns of the area, and yet the government “chooses to turn a blind eye”.
He said two flyovers, namely the Post Office and Zesco flyovers, were constructed during the First Republic of Dr Kenneth Kaunda tenure.
“To the very best of my knowledge and memory, there was no fanfare at the time as we are witnessing today. Sadly, President Lungu risks going down in the annals of history as one of the most reckless and irresponsible Presidents in Africa,” said Harrington.