COOPERATION, understanding and effective means of communication between members of the business community, the government and the public at large can help cushion differences and tackle challenges for mutual benefits.
There are positive lessons to be drawn from the recent closure and re-opening of the Dar es Salaam based Double tree by Hilton Hotel that includes the cautious and friendly approach chosen by all sides involved - the hotel management, the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) and the government - in solving environmental concerns.
The common saying that goes: 'Every cloud has a silver lining' came true a few days just before Christmas festive season when the Minister of State in the Vice- President's Office (Environment), Dr Terezya Huvisa, instructed the hotel administration to suspend operations and repair the ruptured sewage pipe that drained the waste to the Indian Ocean at Msasani area.
Good that the hotel management agreed and apologized for the anomaly and acted promptly to fix the damaged pipe to ensure compliance with all requirements as required by the NEMC. The culture of admitting mistakes and willingly take appropriate measures to correct them (mistakes) is equally commendable.
The noticeable positive change of attitude was seen in the whole incidence starting from the time the national leadership of the Doubletree Hotel learnt about the mistake and took action to rectify without grievances. This happened in a responsive manner such that, the hotel's Sales Director Florenso Kirambata on behalf of the entire administration pledged total compliance to environmental regulations and maintain good work relationship with the government and the general public.
Kirambata says; "The problem has been dealt with and this will not happen again. Usually, we use trucks to collect waste, there was that small burst pipe, but now completely fixed. The entire team wishes to express appreciation and gratitude to the government and NEMC who assisted and guided us in the process to have the hotel back to fully operation," he said.
Resumed activities followed a few days of uncertainties that 'engulfed' the business centre the moment the minister Dr Huvisa issued a verbal order that business should be closed down at the hotel pending repair of the pipe and total compliance with the directives by NEMC.
Uncertainties reigned in the sense that some of the visitors who wanted to spend nights at the hotel with already confirmed bookings had to cancel off their reservations. There are those met at the reception making inquiries on the state of affairs. Among the interviewed was Mr Albert Heffernan from USA who says the place was ideal and choice of his destination for Christmas and end of the Year vacation.
However, he was assured of compliance and decided to settle at the hotel. On the other hand, interviewed workers at the hotel prayed that compliance with NEMC directives was achieved without delay to spare more than 200 jobs in jeopardy. Again, the statement by the Deputy Minister in the Vice-President's Office (Environment), Mr Charles Kitwanga, that the order by the government was not meant to disturb business operations but rather to make sure that all business operations, construction projects and other similar undertakings abide by the specified regulations in the protection and improvement of the environment.
The spirit showed by all sides (the government, NEMC and the hotel administration) with the purpose of maintaining the highest degree of environmental safety measures without interrupting business operations is worth emulation by others. The way the matter was handled clears off any doubt of malice. Effective December 22, 2012 the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel officially resumed activities in full and regained the Environmental Audited Certificate.
In appreciation for the new development, the administration said: "We look forward to welcoming the return of all our regular clientele and all new clients as we continue to strive to live up to the Hotel's Brand Promise, which is to provide the special comfort and acts of kindness that make the travelers feel human again".
Judging from the clarification by the Deputy Minister, Mr Kitwanga, that the move was not meant to target the particular hotel but rather to remind all business operators of their obligation to abide by the environmental regulations, the message gets across to serve as a wakeup call to all. For example, the minister alluded that another hotel, Resident Beach currently under construction was ordered to stop construction work after being discovered that the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment procedures were not observed before commencement of the work.
A 35m/- penalty was imposed on the owners of the hotel presently at construction stage before a special permit to resume construction was issued by NEMC. The message is: "defying regulations may upset business operations but quick response and swift compliance restores order, cooperation and mutual trust with higher authorities". NEMC came into being in 1983 when the government enacted the National Environment Management Act No. 19 of 1983.
NEMC was established with a broad mandate in response to the national need for such an institution to oversee environmental management issues and also implement the resolutions of the Stockholm conference (1972), which called upon all nations to establish and strengthen national environmental councils to advise on environmental issues.
NEMC is mandated to undertake enforcement, compliance, review and monitoring of environmental impacts assessments, research, facilitate public participation in environmental decision making, raise environmental awareness and collect and disseminate environmental information.