via MDGs: Zim scores high on environmental sustainability | The Herald July 6, 2015
FIFTEEN years ago, the United Nations laid out a series of goals it aimed to achieve by this year.
That was an ambitious project, but one worth the risk, even when the odds were staked heavily against the reality of those goals being attained at all within the prescribed time-frame.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that’s what they are called, eight of them in total, but targeting over 20 specific areas.
One of the MDGs was on environmental sustainability —Goal 7— which targeted sound environmental management and the integration of sustainable development principles in national policies.
Now, the deadline year is half way through, how much progress has Zimbabwe made achieving Goal 7? (It is pointless discussing whether the 2015 deadline was met or not. It wasn’t. It won’t.)
However, with an unprecedented economic decline in the decade to 2009, the environmental sustainability goal is probably the one area Zimbabwe achieved significantly noticeable progress.
Faced with multiple environmental challenges that range from deforestation, veld fires, pollution, biodiversity loss and poor waste management, the country has designed and implemented some policies that address those specific problem areas, with measurable success.
Emerging additional challenges are emanating from climate change, manifesting in the form of repeated droughts, tropical cyclones, floods, and reduced and erratic rainfall, making life difficult for those that depend on agriculture, or 70 percent of Zimbabweans.
One of the most important policy interventions was the passing of the Environmental Management Act in 2002, allowing for the establishment of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), an environment regulator and monitor.
The Act provides for a legal framework and institutional mechanisms for the management of the environment. “It provides for improved legal and administrative co-ordination of the diverse sectoral initiatives in order to improve the national capacity for the management of the environment,” EMA says on its website.
By this law, Zimbabwe has implemented plans that help the country better manage its vast natural resources and minimise environmental degradation. EMA has become vocal and actively engaged in the protection of wetlands; water, land and air pollution.
Through the law, environmental offenders may be penalised for such offences as deforestation, littering, water pollution or starting veld fires.
However, in the absence of any environmental indicators that provide for a more practical and economical way to measure the state of the environment, it is difficult assessing EMA’s successes or failures, but more certainly needs to be done in waste management and in the water sector to curb pollution.
A 2013 report by the UN Environment Programme said water quality across southern Africa had deteriorated, but worryingly, it ranked Lake Chivero, Harare’s main water source, as one of the ten most polluted lakes in the world.
Zimbabwe’s water bodies are polluted mainly through industrial and mining waste and raw sewage.
Harare alone discharges 3 885 mega litres or 19 million (200-litre) drums of raw or partially-treated sewage daily into water systems around the capital city. That’s 299 times more than that released by Bulawayo.
EMA’s job is a continuous exercise. But the law that directs its operations is a solid foundation for promoting broader sound management and use of the environment, natural resources and land to achieve sustainable development and national development goals on a continuous basis, and in line with the MDGs, but outside the 2015 deadline.
In 2009, Zimbabwe launched its national policy on environment, clearly designed to dovetail into national development policies by addressing environmental challenges that may hinder socio-economic advancement.
Among many things, the policy seeks to protect the environmentally sensitive sectors of wildlife management and forests, areas that have since been designed and gazetted into national parks.
It aims to better manage the problems coming from Zimbabwe’s natural wealth in minerals, water, agriculture lands and livestock, particularly in rural and resettlement areas where poor management has led to desertification, deforestation, soil erosion and overgrazing. Essentially, there is not a shortage of environmental legislation in Zimbabwe as it were for funding.
The Water Act targets protecting the country’s underground and aboveground water resources while the Natural Resources Act’s main objective is to control the use of resources.
Other legislation target industrial pollutants and substances that deplete the ozone layer.
Zimbabwe is also party to international treaties and conventions that aim to reverse environmental degradation and improve the management of natural resources including the Ramsar Convention, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the World Heritage Convention and others.
However, some of the laws need harmonising, as they tend to conflict, particularly were private profit lies in wait.
For example, and despite its reservations, EMA could not prevent the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority from licensing some private company to build a shopping mall and hotel over a vast wetland near Harare’s Belvedere suburb.
Today, many unregulated miners are causing untold environmental damage, leaving huge open pits that could trap humans or wildlife to their death.
It has proved difficult reclaiming land once operations for big mining companies end, let alone for the gold miners (amakorokoza).
Yet, Government has come out supporting these individual unlicensed miners.
The MDGs do not mention climate change in specific terms, but Zimbabwe has begun concrete direct steps to address this danger, whose manifold impacts continue to send shock-waves across the economy, social and environmental sectors. The country ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol in 2009, joining the world’s most important convention that aims to curb the growth of greenhouse gases emissions, provide adaptation finance and technology transfer.
In 2013, Zimbabwe demonstrated its commitment to tackling climate change by creating a Government ministry that specifically deals with the phenomenon.
A National Climate Change Response Strategy has since been completed while authorities are finalising a National Climate Policy to operationalise the strategy.
Both the policy and strategy will be main-streamed into national budgets and development targets, providing for improved preparedness and a more co-ordinated and efficient response to climate linked disasters.
Like several African countries, Zimbabwe may have missed many of the Millennium Development Goals such as those on ending hunger and poverty, the same cannot be said about Goal 7 on environmental sustainability.
In many respects, Zimbabwe is one of the leading countries in Africa in terms of work on the environment, says the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“This for example is reflected in the economically important wildlife sector. Although some species are endangered due to habitat destruction, the country’s rich wildlife resources have been well managed. A number of innovations, which have promoted sustainable utilisation of wildlife, could serve as a model for other countries,” it said.
Now, we look forward to something else, the Sustainable Development Goals, which have replaced the Millennium Development Goals.
God is faithful.