Monday, 7 September 2020


THE High Court has ruled as unconstitutional the practice by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) which prohibits members of the public from photocopying and reproducing its environment impact assessment (EIA) reports. 

Justice Clement Phiri said EMA’s application of the Environmental Management Act was ultra vires section 62 of the Constitution.

The determination was made by consent following an application by the Community Water Alliance (CWA), a civic organisation whose mandate includes advocacy on water governance issues.
According to the civic organisation, EMA refuses the public permission to make copies of the EIA reports and above all, charges exorbitant fees to anyone wishing to have sight of such report even without having to make a copy of same.

On September 2, 2020, however, Justice Phiri outlawed EMA’s move and further ordered the Tourism ministry to review its fees with a view to allowing the public to have access to information.

“The application by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) of section 108 of the Environmental Management Act in a manner that prohibits members of the public from producing documents in the possession of the Environmental Management Agency is hereby declared as ultra vires section 62 of the Constitution,” Justice Phiri ruled.

“Members of the public be and are hereby allowed to make the inspection on the machine readable record and make notes on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and copies thereof at their expense. Second respondent (Tourism ministry) be and is hereby ordered to take the necessary measures to review the fee in line with reasonable standards that take into consideration the fundamental right of access to information.”

According to CWA, in pursuit of its objectives together with its collaborators, it sought to intervene in attempts to limit the destruction of the wetlands and of particular interest was the Kambuzuma Section 2 wetland, wherein a developer was constructing a service station.

As a result, the civic organisation said, it sought to obtain the EIA report for the aforementioned wetland from EMA, but a copy of the said document proved impossible to access due to the fact that EMA charged an exorbitant fee of $300 for such access and above all the report itself could not be photocopied or uplifted as EMA would not allow it.

It was, however, the civic organisation’s argument that the average EIA report would mostly be over 100 pages, meaning that one would have to sit at EMA’s offices and make copious notes since the latter would not even allow pictures of its report to be taken. Newsday


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