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Zimbabwe: ‘Flawed Environmental Laws a Danger to Future Generations’

Zimbabwe: 'Flawed Environmental Laws a Danger to Future Generations'

The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) says lapse in environmental laws poses a great risk for future generations if not implemented and followed on.

ZELA Programs Manager, Nyaradzo Mutonhori told 263Chat on the sidelines of a media sensitization and training meeting themed, ‘Media as partners in natural resource governance in Zimbabwe’ that business entities have an obligation to respect communities and abide by environmental laws as stipulated by the constitution, failure of which would prove to be problematic for future generations who will bear the burden of a damaged environment.

“In terms of our laws, we do believe that there are gaps that need to be addressed in terms of sustainable legacy for future generations. We are looking at having, sometimes, very strong provisions in the law but there is no implementation or enforcement.

“Let us look at the Environmental Impact Assessment consultation process where communities are supposed to be consulted and make input and influence decisions on the use of these natural resources, we have those provisions at law but when we go to what happens on the ground, we still have a lot of complaints by communities that did not participate or were not aware that the meeting they were participating in is an EIA meeting,” Mutonhori noted.

Community participation, Mutonhori added, remains key in ensuring that companies are kept in check but noted with concern the slow process being done to implement key mining provisions like the Mines and Minerals Bill.

“When you look at the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, it has been pending for many years and we have been calling for greater community participation and access to information about mining contracts… So we face many hurdles and there are many loopholes there.

“What we also have is that once a company gets an EIA before they start operating, there is no provision that then says after three years, and they evaluate and update their EIA. So, there are some strong provisions that are there but are not being implemented, and then we have gaps in terms of the law. We also have delays in coming up with laws that are aligned to the constitution,” she said.

Mutonhori further stated the need for communities to engage the government to ensure that companies are complying with the set-aside laws.

In addition, she added that communities and companies must be aware of the fact that damage to the environment has long-term effects on the agriculture of the country.

“We need communities to be able to work with the government and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to monitor environmental compliance. If we don’t do that, we will leave a legacy of environmental degradation and this affects sustainability because we are still an agro-based economy. We need to look at how mining and farming can take place in a way that is complimentary,” she said.