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Friday, May 24, 2024

Punitive measures on land degradation under spotlight

Story by Memory Chamisa

THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) continues to push for the amendment of the Environmental Management Act to give the agency arresting powers and ensure deterrent fines for individuals and corporates that degrade and pollute the environment.

Environmental degradation and pollution continue to be a thorn in the flesh of many communities countrywide, with EMA often being criticised for failing to address the challenges.

However, the local environmental watchdog has clarified issues affecting its ability to enforce the law, which includes its lack of arresting powers as well as non-deterrent fines on offenders.

EMA Spokesperson, Ms Amkela Sidange said, ‘‘EMA has countless times been described as a toothless bulldog, especially on punitive fines being implemented on companies breaching the Environmental laws, they have not been deterrent enough.

“This has seen most companies being habitual offenders as they can simply pay off the fines without feeling a dent in their pockets. Therefore stakeholders must understand the mandate of the agency, particularly on sustainable management of the environment. There is a need for a review of the fines and laws to ensure those responsible are held accountable.’’

According to the current fines schedule, individuals found polluting or degrading the environment are fined around ZWL$30 000, while corporates pay approximately ZWL$100 000, figures which EMA argues are not punitive enough.

Meanwhile, EMA is implementing the Global Environment Facility Fund (GEF 7) initiative to capacitate rural communities in such programmes as gulley reclamation and income-generating projects that make them not rely on activities that degrade the environment.

Ms Sidange noted, ‘‘The GEF 7 is mainly centred on promoting livelihoods and it’s the first time it is running in Zimbabwe. Eight districts in the country are beneficiaries of the fund to promote livelihoods and educate people that sustainable livelihoods are imperative as people tend to rely more on activities that degrade the environment when they have no income-generating projects.

“We also call for other stakeholders to come on board and partner with the Agency in promoting the support of community-based projects to stifle land degradation in most of the areas.’’

Land degradation is one of the major environmental challenges affecting communities countrywide, owing so such practices as stream bank cultivation, cutting down of trees for tobacco curing and veld fires.

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