It’s time to enforce climate related laws

By Joel Mandaza

2019 gave Zimbabwe a stern reminder of how climate change is now a reality.

Cyclone Idai displaced more than a thousand and killed hundreds in Chimanimani.

One of the most devastating occurrences in the country’s history, Cyclone Idai remains a headache to the country, nine months later.

People are still living in tents and there is trauma in the community, especially children who did not receive enough psychosocial support.

It is going to be a while until Chimanimani people become self-sustaining, Zimbabwe too.
2019 was the same year that rains were very low.

It is almost what midway through the rain season was traditionally and it is yet to rain convincingly.

There is confusion on whether the rainy season has begun or will commence at a later stage.

Farmers are worried, with agriculture forming the spine of the Zimbabwean economy, 2020 may be a tough year.

The drought is a result of El-Nino, a perennial dry spell which has distorted the rain patterns in Southern Africa.
Again, an effect of climate change.

This shows how much of a present reality the concept of climate change is; unlike in the past where it was topical at conferences, Zimbabwe is officially part of those bearing its brunt.

Presently, there is close to 5 million Zimbabweans who will be food insecure in 2020 as a result of the drought.

If all stakeholders, led by Government, do not take swift action people face the risk of starving.

As such, it is important that our lawmakers occupy themselves with the question on how to lead the mitigation cycle.

The first step should be on ensuring there is sustainable behaviour in the country, especially by those operating commercial units.

With people still building on Wetlands, one wonders when we are going to be serious about the environment.

Major construction projects including residential areas and shopping malls are being built at a time the country is facing a potable water crisis.

Someone should stop the madness and put lives before profit.

Lawmakers should come up with laws that unconditionally criminalise building on wetlands.

One of the major economic activities in Zimbabwe is tobacco farming.

Our country is famed for its flue-cured tobacco, which is tobacco dried through the rudimentary method of burning wooden logs in barns.

Although the process makes us a supplier of distinct tobacco, it has uncomfortable environmental connotations.

The rate of deforestation has increased as more small holder farmers join the growing of the golden leaf.

At law, there is no obligation for them to replant trees they would have used to dry their tobacco.

Parliament should come up with a law which requires one to replant trees used during the tobacco season before they can sell the crop at the floors.

That way, it ensures sustainability because as it stands, Zimbabwe will not have any forests soon.

There is a building craze across the country, people are buying stands and building homes for their families.
It brings with it a huge demand for river sand.

This river sand is abstracted illegally along different rivers, in Harare; Mukuvisi River is a source for these sand merchants and their derelict trucks.

One wonders why law enforcement is not clamping down on such illegal activities.

Who should prompt the police to get involved and fulfil its mandate through reducing activities that harm the environment?

Their reluctance is worrying.

Perhaps the latest threat to the environment in Zimbabwe at the moment is artisanal miners and small scale miners.

Some of these miners are clandestinely going back to open cast mines to widen the abandoned sites.

In Mhangura, artisanal miners have been going back to abandoned sites searching for precious gems.

They are deepening and widening the already open pits that are there.

This will present a restoration nightmare for government in a few years.

Some are operating within metres of schools and hospitals and if they are not stopped, even the infrastructure may be at risk.

All of these concerns should be isolated cases if the Environmental Management Agency, born out of an Act of Parliament, were doing their job.

It appears Parliament, as the source of mandate for the agency should remind EMA to do their jobs.

Sub-Sahara Africa is most affected by effects of climate change, it is important that before we call on the world and region to behave in a climate friendly way, we set the tone.

Worse for farming reliant country like Zimbabwe, which has a significant number of its population as subsistence farmers, the changing rain patterns should concern authorities.

Again, Parliament can save us if it is purposive in its oversight role.

Everyone else appears to be putting profit first.

The Judiciary, which appears to be in the mood of setting up special courts for everything might as well set up a few relating only to environmental matters.

This will help in the prioritisation of issues and the quality of prosecution.

As it stands, the majority of cases in climate change related issues are pressure groups filing civil cases against developers.

The state in such instances exists as an innocent bystander, when will it take an active interest in an issue of such pertinence?

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is a male journalist in Zimbabwe and has been practising since September 2009. He used to the editor for The Business Connect (newspaper) in Harare, has his own news website Tourism Focus which is biased towards the tourism sector. Daniel is also working with Magamba Network on their project called Open Parliament where they do live coverage of Parliamentary activities on Twitter and Facebook. He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum, is a member of Zimbabwe Small Broadcasters Association and a board member of Digital Communication Network. He holds a Diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA), a certificate in Youth leadership training from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a certificate in Citizen Journalism from Magamba Network and is currently a first-year student at Zimbabwe Open University studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Ethics and Organisational Leadership.

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