On 5 November 2018, President Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa launched the National Environment Cleaning Day, Themed “Zero tolerance to litter: my environment, my pride in Harare. He went on to declare that every first Friday of each month, between 8am and 10am all and sundry should take part in a clean-up. The Government has taken this move to ensure the country has sustainable environment management and waste disposal systems.
By Kowanai Mhlanga
In launching this programme, President Mnangagwa was alive to the continued urbanization trend and its challenges. He reckoned that that urban centres in Zimbabwe generate about 165 million tonnes of waste per year and that the bulk of it ends up in open illegal dump site, urban streams and wetlands. It is important to note that the National Environment Cleaning Day is a worthwhile undertaking, noting as we do that the incessant sewer pipes blockages are largely caused by solid waste. Failure by local authorities, particularly Harare City Council to deal with solid waste material has been and is the reason why water borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery have cost many lives especially in Budiriro and Glen View.
Indeed, the president seems to have taken a cue from the Rwandese, who have a similar model. Copying such a program is not bad, and I do not think there is any need for copyrights. In a way, the National Environment Cleaning Day is in tandem with the mantra, Zimbabwe is open for business. Any sane citizen may not challenge this cause. For investors to come to Zimbabwe and do business the state of our biophysical environment is key. For tourists to want to come to this country, clean environment is also key.
Where to after the national clean-up campaign?
Whilst the president exalted the education institutions to scale up environmental awareness programmes, I argue that schools have been doing their part, but somewhere and somehow there is laxity of enforcement. Much as it is mandatory for the Environmental Management Act that every local authority develops a Local Environmental Action Plan (LEAP), the Environmental Management Agency is and has been sleeping on duty. So, have been and are local authorities both urban and rural. The Environmental Management Agency should come hard on local authorities for uncollected garbage. That way they will play the ball. The existing pieces of legislations such as the Anti- Litter Act should be operationalised. A culture of anti-littering should be inculcated within the citizenry. In Zimbabwe, this culture is not absent within children, but within adults.
In my view anti-littering should not be taken as talk-show and as one of those programmes the president is invited just to preside over. It should be taken as a criminal offence. Uncontrolled freedom should be checked. If freedom means indiscipline and dirt within the city centres, then let it be taken away. Indeed, individuals have rights, but so does the environment. Should it have rights to pollute, as its inhabitants, we suffer.
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