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Safeguard wetlands and protect the environment
Charlene Hewat, Environment Africa
October 23, 2012

What is happening in Harare is a disgrace and action needs to be taken. There are some positive actions taking place, however, the residents of Harare need to start standing up for their rights. We as Zimbabweans have a right to a clean and healthy environment. What are we doing about it?

Harare is not clean and our remaining green spaces are rapidly diminishing, being utilized for by and large, illegal developments etc. Environmental Impact Assessment's (EIA's) if done at all, are often flawed in their processes and in many cases don't hold 'any weight' in terms of decision making as the laws in place to protect our environment are not adhered to or upheld. A key factor in any professional EIA is the consultation and engaging of interested and affected stakeholder and/or parties. In most cases, this is not done and if it is, it is often via distribution of vague questionnaires that are circulated to a few to fill in and sign.

In response to the ongoing destruction our green urban areas, Environment Minister, Francis Nhema recently gazette the Declaration of the Protection of Harare Wetlands covering 26 areas around our city. In essence, it empowers the Minister to take action to protect these ecologically sensitive areas and to STOP the illegal development and activities within defined wetland areas. There should be no room for weak excuses, trade off's or any other reasons, the bottom line is WE ALL NEED OUR WETLANDS INTACT and CONSERVED.

Clean ups are taking place and just not making the impact needed as soon after a cleanup, the place goes back to what it looked like a few days ago. This does not mean we stop the clean ups, it means we have to try and change the mindsets and attitudes of the people as well. Clean Up Zimbabwe is a national Campaign Environment Africa started in 1992 and have been carrying out clean ups since. Many councils have now taken up the Clean Ups as their own initiatives which is just great and is what should happen. There is information on our website on how to organize and carry out a clean up so have a look and take action.

Our fines for littering are there, however, the City of Harare has one set of fines, EMA has another and the Police have another so where do we as residents stand? These need to come together and be unified and more importantly implemented.

Pollution is rife. Households are burning waste, shopping centres are burning waste at night so as not to be seen, I have personally seen this, and corporates are burning waste. The excuse is that council is not collecting waste. This is not an excuse as when you go and see what is being burnt often it is biodegradable waste i.e. waste that can be composted. So let's get behind the Zimbabwe Recycling Association and support Recycling, which includes composting. Let's improve our soils, the very soils that give us our food. I visited a shopping centre today 20th October, and was so impressed by two young women who are collecting recyclables; however, the conditions they are working under are very poor and need to be upgraded especially for their own health and safety. I have asked the Recycling Association to get involved with champions on the ground such as these wonderful women and hope that this is taken up.

Water, a basic human right, without it we will not survive! But what is happening here in Harare? Trucks are delivering and selling water to households that do not receive water from the City Council. Some of these households have not received municipal water for over 3 years - this is a disgrace! Boreholes are being sunk all over Harare to access water, including in our wetland areas; our water table is getting lower and lower. Basically our underground rivers and lakes are drying up. This is further exacerbated by the number of illegal developments taking place on our wetlands.

When we do try to do something about this we are often told, don't get involved as it is political, or a decision has been made that cannot be interfered with etc.

Are these not the very people that should be leading this country, our politicians and decision makers who should be driving this country forward with the well being of all its citizens in mind, in a way that we can all be proud to be Zimbabweans and in a way that leaves behind a positive legacy for our children of Zimbabwe. We are not interested in politics; we are interested in our Country being environmentally sustainable for ALL Zimbabweans.

So we can go on and on and on but the time is NOW to take up the ACTION and do something positive for our City, our Country and our Environment.

Here is one positive initiative that we are actioning for the citizens of Zimbabwe. For Every Child A Tree has been launched and the Goodwill Ambassador, Wayne Black is excited to see all Zimbabweans get involved. We shall be sending out information to all to get involved in this very important campaign. We are all children of Zimbabwe, all of us, even the beautiful old gogo in the rural areas, and we have a target of 14 million trees to plant. This is possible and all it takes is for Every Zimbabwean to plant a tree, that's all. WE CAN DO IT ZIMBABWE so let's get out there and plant our TREE and care for it.

In Harare we shall be holding a tree planting ACTION event at the University of Zimbabwe on the 3rd December at 10am. If you are interested, watch the press for further details in the coming weeks.

Our Zimbabwe, our home, together we can keep it clean and green.

Visit the Environment Africa fact sheet

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