CLIMATE change is a threat to international peace and security and calls for an address to the environmental challenges being experienced worldwide, Environment and Natural Resources Management Minister Francis Nhema has said.
He said as such, a holistic approach was needed in addressing environmental challenges being experienced in the country such as deforestation, poaching, land degradation and pollution.
Minister Nhema made the remarks while addressing senior officers attending the Joint Command and Staff Course Number 26 at the Zimbabwe Staff College in Harare on Monday.
"Security analysts and academics have warned for some time that climate change threatens water and food security and the allocation of resources which in turn could increase forced migration, raise tension and trigger conflict," he said.
"Let me emphasise that African governments and security forces in particular will need to manage these impacts to ensure that competition for resources does not lead to violent conflict." Minister Nhema said the security forces had a role to play in the management of the country's resources, protecting them from plunderers. It is clear that the environmental challenges that we are facing as a nation have got a bearing on the security situation over and above the socio economic situation," Minister Nhema said.
"It is my firm belief that our sovereignty as a country is compromised if these environmental challenges are not addressed. As our defence forces, you are the defenders of our territory. Let us all join hands as a nation to sustainably utilise our resources and protect them from plunderers."
Minister Nhema said the excessive concentrations of human and livestock population in ecologically marginal areas with dry and fragile soils was the major cause of land degradation.
"The three-tier land tenure systems, communal, commercial and small-scale farming has a great influence on the land degradation problem," he said.
"Biodiversity loss in Zimbabwe has been as a result of deforestation that has in some cases caused species extinction. Deforestation is mainly caused by opening up land for agriculture and biomass energy demand. Periodic droughts are also strongly impacting on biodiversity."
Minister Nhema said Zimbabwe might be losing 312 900 hectares of forest land a year due to deforestation.
"Most of deforestation takes place in communal and resettlement areas where the rate of tree planting is less than 25 000ha per year," he said.
"Clearly, this rate of tree planting in these areas is not sufficient to offset the deforestation trend, implying that the vegetation cover is likely to continue dwindling until the culture of social forestry tree planting improves."
Minister Nhema said Government was strengthening policy on forestry to include increased patrols and stricter legislation that would see firewood users being held accountable for the forestry resources in their areas.
Government, Minister Nhema said, was registering all industrial and mining emission points in the country.
"This is meant to monitor emissions to encourage cleaner production technologies which lead to reduction of emissions," he said. Mining companies should also reclaim degraded mining areas, while industries should treat waste before disposal into the environment and recycle waste produced by their products."