The Herald (Harare)

27 February 2013

Zimbabwe: What Is Africa Environment Day?

Africa Environment Day is commemorated on March 3 each year and was proclaimed by the then Organisation of African Unity in 2002 to raise awareness on the pressing environmental challenges facing the continent. Some of the biggest environmental challenges facing Africa today include loss of biodiversity, climate change, desertification, deforestation, land degradation, endangered biodiversity and waste management which are mainly responsible of problems related to security food, health and development.

At the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February last year, it was agreed that the organisation should recognise the great contribution to environmental awareness in Africa made by the Kenyan environmental activist, Dr Wangari Maathai.

One of the ways the African Union has chosen to recognise Dr Maathai is through commemorating Africa Environment Day in conjunction with Wangari Maathai Day.

As a nation, we value this day which served as a platform to promote an in-depth understanding on what communities, civic society, industry and other sectors should do towards environmental protection.

This year we will commemorate the Africa Environment Day in Victoria Falls town under the theme, "Cleaner Cities -- My Responsibility".

How can we have clean cities?

As a nation, we need to have cleaner cities. Citizens and local authorities have to take up the challenge of improving the solid waste management scenario existing in the country.

For a city to be clean, it takes responsibility and commitment in addressing the waste management challenges that have become common these days.

Major cities have experienced rapid growth due to rural-urban migration in recent years due to anticipation of good life in urban areas through employment and business opportunities.

However, this rapid growth has come with desirable and undesirable effects. Some of the undesirable effects have been the deteriorating state of sanitation as evidenced by heaps of waste in cities.

We need to reduce air, water and land pollution in order to keep our cities clean. The industrial sector is also encouraged to invest in cleaner technologies and reduce emissions that affect our atmosphere.

Let us green our cities by planting trees and lawns to act as carbon sinks. Air pollution, both indoors and outdoors, poses health risks to millions of people every day, contributing to asthma, emphysema, heart disease, and other potentially lethal conditions.

Managing air pollution causes, and defending successful safeguards, is critical to the human, economic, and environmental health of our communities.

Development projects and ventures should be environmentally sustainable; the Earth is a closed system with finite resources and limited capacity for self-regulation and self-renewal.

Everyone depends on the Earth's natural resources and therefore an economic system that respects the integrity of ecosystems and ensures the resilience of life supporting systems must be created.

What is the role of trees?

Trees play a pivotal role in keeping our cities clean by cleansing the air, intercepting airborne particles and absorbing pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

A mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year. We urge the media fraternity to take an active role in spreading the message to have our cities clean.

What are the expectations of Local Authorities?

Local authorities should work with NGOs, the corporate world, households and other institutions so that we deal with waste management challenges holistically, effectively and efficiently.

Local authorities should also provide bins at strategic and convenient places for litter disposal and design adequate routine waste collection mechanisms in an effort to keep our cities, towns, growth points and households clean.

Public transporters or any vehicle owner must ensure that no litter is thrown from moving vehicles.

What is the Cleaner CitiesProgramme?

The Government through the Office of the President and Cabinet has come up with a Clean Cities Programme to ensure clean, safe and healthy urban environments.

The programme seeks to complement other initiatives undertaken by institutions, business organisations and community groups.

The theme of the Africa Environment Day is therefore inclined to support an already existing initiative as we make a countdown to the historic United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly to be held in Victoria Falls in August.

As the theme suggests, it is every citizen's responsibility to make sure that our environment is clean and well taken care of. Let us work together to keep our Zimbabwe clean. Together we can make it.

EMA kindly requests all public transport operators to put bins in their vehicles to avoid littering by passengers who throw litter through windows.

The Agency also encourages Zimbabwean citizens to make use of bins. Recycling of waste is another waste management strategy that is encouraged by EMA.

Burning of waste is prohibited as it converts land pollution to waste pollution, which is also very harmful to the environment.

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