Fairness Moyana in Hwange
YOUTHS in Hwange are calling for the establishment of an environmental court or tribunal that will exclusively handle environmental issues as part of addressing violations.
The district is home to vast deposits of coal which has seen a proliferation of mining activities with residents often complaining of lack of sustainable mining which has led to pollution and land degradation.
Contributing during the Hwange Youth Network Climate Change Environmental Justice dialogue meeting which was supported by Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela) on Friday, youths said the establishment of a specialised court would go a long way in effectively reducing environmental violations in the extractive sector.
“What we have noted is that EMA as an agency does not have prosecuting powers as it is a regulatory authority. The only thing EMA can do is gather evidence and submit it to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), however, due to the nature of environmental crimes we noted that the people within the NPA may not find the real impact of those crimes and hence most cases are not prosecuted but are just shelved or left hanging. So we think that having an environmental court that is equipped with staff that has some understanding on environmental law and international environmental policies it will help in adding weight to the prosecution of environmental crimes,” said Mr Nkosikhona Sibanda.
Another participant Miss Shylline Tshuma said with the backlog of cases in the courts, it was best if specific courts are assigned to deal with the matter. Miss Irene Mlambo said some companies were now mining closer to human habitations, exposing residents to air and noise pollution.
“We have of late seen companies mining near a school, residential area or water sources exposing them to air, noise and water pollution. There is blasting that is taking place in these places which compromises the integrity of buildings,” she said.
Junior senator for Hwange Central, Miss Regina Zhungu said she was mobilising other members of Parliament in the district to carry out awareness campaigns around environmental issues and advocate for action.
Zela programme lead-responsible for investments and business Ms Josephine Chiname said they were working with youths to create an environmentally conscious generation.
“We push for environmental and climate justice and in our work we believe in the involvement of young people. This is partly because the impacts of environmental degradation and harm affect children and young people more because they experience the effects now and in their future,” she said.
Ms Chiname said the organisation had since launched a feasibility study to help guide the establishment of a specialised court.