Action Aid applause pollution London landmark judgement

By Staff Reporter

Action Aid Zambia says that the latest judgment handed down by the UK Supreme Court will open the door for other communities in developing countries to bring similar cases in the UK against large multinationals.

And the civil society organisation says Zambia’s economy is likely to grow at a slower pace next year.

Head of policy and programmes, Jeston Lunda said that the ruling agreed with the claimants to have the matter heard in London as they were likely not have access to justice in Zambia.

“Action Aid is part of a new campaign calling for an effective law to require companies and investors to take action to prevent human rights abuses, worker exploitation and environmental harm in their global operations, activities, products, services, investments and supply chains,” he said.

Lunda said for 13 years, the Chingola residents had been fighting for compensation of damage, remediation and an end to the continual pollution that had impacted on their lives.

“Throughout the case, Action Aid has worked with other civil society organisations supporting the villagers to access justice,” he said.

He disclosed that Women and children have been the most affected as they’ve been forced to look for alternative water sources, as the rivers they relied on for their livelihoods and day-to-day household activities had been continually polluted.

“They have had no choice but to use the same polluted water,” he said.

Lunda said that Action Aid Zambia works closely with communities in the Chingola area through its partner, the Catholic Diocese of Ndola.

“This work has focused on providing platforms and resources to support the villagers to claim their rights and advocate for regulation of corporate conduct through progressive policies and legislation,” he said.

Lunda stated that the work also involves promoting livelihood initiatives such as access to safe water and farmland with local authorities.

Meanwhile, Sandwell Sinyangwe, chairperson of the Shimulala community said the residents didn’t suspect the water and environment were contaminated until they started experiencing health challenges.

“With the coming of Action Aid Zambia, we have been sensitised on our rights and how to claim them.”

After more than a decade fighting for compensation, villagers in Chingola have won the right to pursue justice against the mining conglomerate Vedanta in the English courts, after a landmark ruling by the UK Supreme Court.

The case was brought by 1,826 Chingola residents, who said their lives have been devastated by toxic run-off from the nearby Nchanga copper mine, which has contaminated the local water supply and polluted farmland since 2004.

And Action Aid Zambia Country director Nalucha Ziba said Zambia’s economy was likely to grow at a slower pace next year compounded by dry spells witnessed in some parts of the country.

Ziba said that this will ultimately affect production in the agriculture sector and subsequently affect forex earnings.

She said another challenge worth looking at is the increased debt service payment.

Ziba said the country has also witnessed late payments to contractors who supplied various goods and services as well as late payment of salaries.