The environment in Zimbabwe

22 Feb

Some years ago I was a part of some enquiry which had nothing to do with the environment. I however had break enough to divert and talk about something else. That’s when I mentioned the state of rivers the state of what used to be leafy hills and mountains. Then I remarked : I wander why Zimbabwe has no environmental agency to deal with these things. Guess what, the vice chair of the enquiry was actually in the board of directors of the environmental agency. In respect of who she was we ended there.

I have looked at the agency’s website and got absolute disappointment. The lady from the enquiry is no longer in the agency board but that’s not where my disappointment lay.

My immediate visible problem with the legal provision,the environmental management agency act, is that it is too general. I would like a piece of legislation that apportions specific responsibility to the agency for rivers, for example. It is meant to be supported by regulations and they are scanty. I don’t think the act being a 2002 legislation still conforms to the constitution and the dynamic nature of issues environmental.

There seems to be a distinct difference between what the Act purports the EMA to do and that which it does. Looking at what the EMA says to do you would be tempted to think they are a purely industrial waste management agency. The emphasis of what they do is waste management, protection of wet lands etc, without really addressing detail.

The following quote is a summary of what environmental management services department does:
1. Local Environmental Action Plans (LEAPs)
2. Environmental clubs for schools
3. Environmental competitions for communities, corporate, NGOs and individuals
4. National commemorations for national and international environmental days
5. Environmental projects
6.Produces the Zimbabwe Environment Outlook Report and other environmental databases
7. Research
8. Trainings
9. Offers consultancy services

I mean really! Rivers are being damaged by gold panning and construction sand diggers. Yet all the regulation of rivers the EMA recognises as its duty is to make sure everyone digging for sand has a licence. That can be done even by the local kraal head. Environmental clubs for schools? Come on. Ok maybe not but what exactly are environmental projects,what is value in legislating for an agency to commemorate environmental days?

What I particularly find incomplete for logic are the many layers of managing the environment all of which have duties buried in the same words. There shall be a minister who will be responsible for the same with his permanent secretary who will be on the management board together with 15 others. Of the 15 one will be a lawyer and the others must be experts in various environmental departments.

There is also a council where again secretaries of relevant ministries are expected to be members. So there are 4 layers of managing the environment before we even look at executive management, operational stuff and support services. This is just a waste of money and time.

Out of all the four layers of administration of our environment there is not even a single one that is specifically charged with implementation of action. It portrays itself as a regulatory and licensing body than a damage control and management entity. In their view of what they do they see workshops and seminars as essential. Yet they are targeting school children. A man struggling with a field under annual erosion needs the advice and support from the expertise of the ema. A panner who wants to extract gold cares less what he is doing to musuruveki river, to tugwane,to tugwi, runde and Save and wider still the ocean. All he needs are correct methods, that is if the EMA are themselves aware of any.

Forests, hills and mountains lie desolate at the watch of a constitutional body commissioned with the task of protecting resources. I looked for information of what of our resources are extinct or almost. There is no such info. What insects, trees, shrubs, birds, animals or crops that are perishing, and the site of EMA has not even a clue.

How polluted are our towns from smoke? These are things that really make responsible reading. When I am assured that the water we drink is well monitored, well managed and is clean and fit for drinking.


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