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Plans underway to establish environmental courts

Plans underway to establish environmental courts

Story Memory Chamisa

THE establishment of specialised Environmental Courts in Zimbabwe has been cited as critical in efficient prosecution of environmental offenders and disputes.

It is against this background that the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) and other stakeholders including the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Wildlife, Environmental Management Agency as well as Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority this Friday convened to deliberate on the establishment of the specialised courts.

“As part of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Climate Change and Wildlife, it is important for us to understand the significance of such courts in Zimbabwe. We have heard of how countries like Kenya have faired in the establishment of courts and prosecution of offenders and would want the same here in Zimbabwe as we are seized with issues of sand poachers who have caused massive land degradation, poachers who are even a risk at our park rangers,” said Epworth South Constituency legislator, Honourable Taedzwa Mutanha.

Zimparks legal manager Mr Lisberty Chadenga said, “Justice systems around the world continue to face obstacles to settling environmental cases quickly, fairly and judges who lack understanding of environmental issues. The boom in environmental courts is driven by an evolving understanding of human rights and environmental law, increased awareness of the threats of climate change, and dissatisfaction with general court systems.”

ZELA executive director Mr Mutuso Dhlamini spoke on how climate change has also been putting pressure on creating environmental courts, for sustainable development.

“The UNEP report attributes the success of the court to judicial leadership, sufficient budget, comprehensive jurisdiction, political support and stakeholder overview. International agreements like the Paris Climate Change Accords have made important strides in recognising the severity of the problems posed by climate change, but their non-binding nature means that it is up to national court systems to ensure these promises are carried out,” he said.

In 2009, there were only 350 of these specialised court systems in the world, and to this day, there are at least 1 200 in 44 countries.

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