A forest reserve outside Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, has shrunk to just 716 hectares (1,770 acres) from its original 1,750-hectare (4,320-acre) span to make way for housing and lifestyle developments.The developments are also pumping sewage into the Chalimbana River, contaminating the fish and water that local communities rely on, and leading to outbreaks of diarrhea.Top government officials have been named among the recipients of some of the plots, including the vice president, chief justice, and ministers.Activists mounting a legal challenge to end the construction and restore the forest to its previous state saw an earlier ruling in their favor overturned, and are skeptical about getting justice in what they call “an engineered case.” LUSAKA – On a chilly August afternoon in Chongwe, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of the Zambian capital, Lusaka, a handful of children warm themselves around a small fire on the banks of the Chalimbana River. In the mud near the water rests the mosquito net they have been fishing with, a wriggly mass of tadpole-sized fry too small to eat dying in its folds. One girl, shivering in her wet clothes, proudly shows off a plastic shopping bag filled with her catch. The children have been taught it’s wrong to use these nets but they still do so openly, compromising future fishing by trapping eggs and small immature fish in its fine gauze. One older boy explains the river water is contaminated, so they shouldn’t drink it. When he’s asked why, he shrugs. Worrying about the sewage that might be washing down the river from a posh new development upriver in Lusaka East is left up to the adults. Earlier in the day, village leaders held a strategy meeting at the local clinic, where they expressed their concern over developments in Forest Reserve 27, a 1,750-hectare (4,320-acre) patch of green from which the Chalimbana River flows. In 2017, a 70-hectare (173-acre) triangle in the southeast corner of the reserve was degazetted to allow development of upmarket residential complexes. Over in the northeast part of the reserve, plans are afoot for one of the most luxurious estates Lusaka has ever seen: Kingsland City. Sunshare Estates, a public-private partnership between the Zambian Air Force and three Chinese companies — Datong Construction, Drimtown Investments and Shangria Investments — advertised the development with the slogan “For Your Noble Life.” More than 1,000 homes had already been built for personnel at the Zambian Air Force’s Twin Palms Base. Now a further 380 hectares (940 acres) were targeted to build 2,500 more housing units, a shopping mall, sports complex, hotels, a university, a golf course, an amusement park, and a Zambian Air Force academy. It’s not all been smooth sailing for Kingsland City. In January 2018, Zambia’s Water Resources Management Authority warned that raw sewage had started seeping into the Chalimbana where the new homes have gone up. The authority’s report said the old sewer ponds had been built for a limited number of houses and cautioned that the system will not be able to cope with further development. It warned that contamination had been detected downstream of the discharge point, with reports that some people had gotten sick with diarrhea. But later in 2018 President Edgar Lungu redefined the forest reserve’s boundaries to exclude the Kingsland City area on the Twin Palms Base side and the residential developments in the southeast. In 2019, a further piece on the eastern side was taken out of the reserve, leaving only 716 hectares (1,770 acres) of forest protected. The forestry department was not involved at any point in this degazetting process.