The Non Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) says it has noted with deep concern the recent electricity tariff increase by ZESCO, of both domestic and commercial users, saying the increment will, without doubt, further increase the cost of living and worsen the already high poverty levels in the country.
NGOCC director Engwase Mwale said in a statement that Zambians are already grappling with the already high cost of living, resulting from high fuel prices.
‘The situation is further compounded with the Government’s removal of subsidies on fuel and maize. The current economic situation is having a negative impact on the living standards of the Zambian people, especially the poor, a majority of whom are women and children,’ she said.
The NGOCC urged Government to reconsider the subsidies on fuel and maize to cushion the effects of these increases.
‘The increased ZESCO tariffs, especially for domestic users will also have the potential of contributing to the failure by Zambia to meet Millennium Development Goal 7 on environmental sustainability. Because of the high electricity, more households are bound to resort to cheaper and unsustainable sources of energy such as charcoal and firewood leading to increased deforestation. This will further increase Zambia’s vulnerability to climate change,’ she said.
Mwale said that the failure to make progress to achieving environmental sustainability as envisaged by the increased tariffs will adversely affect women in Zambia potentially more than men.
‘This is because women are the ones responsible for gathering firewood and combustible material for cooking. The increased tariffs will drastically reduce the quality of life of women as they have to cover long distances in search of firewood and other materials for cooking and will face challenges in providing food for their families,’ she explained.
‘As already observed, the increase in electricity tariff will also translate in increased production costs, inevitably pushing the prices of commodities, including basic household commodities. With the already high living standards in Zambia, this will make the poverty situation in the country even worse.
She said that part from reconsidering the position on subsidies, the government should consider in future the environmental justifications that have a bearing on the lives of women before approving an increase in the ZESCO tariffs.