Environmentalists warn massive power tariff hike will aggravate Zambia’s deforestation

Environmental stakeholders are warning that the massive power tariff hike by Zambia’s power utility company will aggravate deforestation.

ZESCO’s power tariff increase of 50% came into effect yesterday. The remaining 25% will kick in on September 1.

“Trees will come down at a faster rate as more people are forced to use charcoal,” said Newton Nguni, a former minister and environmental activist.

Nguni said the country is already facing high deforestation rates and it will now see that number increase.

Nguni’s sentiments are echoed by many others.

Data by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) shows that Zambia is losing forests at a rate of 250 000 hectares per year. The country has more than 44 million hectares of forests.

Efforts to curb the indiscriminate cutting down of trees by Zambia’s Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), have done little to halt the alarming deforestation rate.

Nguni said rather than effect the massive power hike, ZESCO should have looked at upscaling partnerships with private players in alternative sources of energy to serve more vulnerable groups.

“Solar energy is more affordable and ZESCO could work out power purchase agreements with private players and provide affordable power to the majority of households who will be heavily taxed by the new tariffs,” he said.

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