If the concept of environmental stewardship had always been something of great significance not only in Zimbabwe, but in the entire world, with each person striving to sustain natural resources and protect the environment for future generations, the world would not be feeling defeated by its environmental woes.
By Chipo Masara
The woes look set to mount until everyone makes it their job to jealously safeguard the environment.
For the past seven years that I have been writing in this environment column, I have had many heart-breaking moments that have convinced that many people do not care about the environment, choosing to view anything environmental as the preserve for those employed to handle such issues, such as the Environmental Management Agency (EMA). I vividly remember the disappointment I felt in 2012 when I did a series of articles that highlighted the waste management challenges bedevilling Harare. A good number of the litter bugs I talked to after seeing them carelessly throwing out garbage, especially out of moving vehicles, tried to justify the deplorable act by saying they were giving the Harare City Council-employed cleaners something to do. It clearly escaped them that the same disease-carrying litter would come back to haunt them in the form of cholera and typhoid, or that it could clog the sewers, streets and rivers.
But over the years, I have also been pleasantly surprised by people that — although without any background in environmental work — have demonstrated their love for the environment and their willingness to play their part in helping to protect it — embracing the fact that taking care of the environment is everyone’s responsible.
One such person who cares for the environment and is prepared to go to great lengths to help protect it is Enock Jerry Bonono, who recently contacted me to let me know that while recently passing through Mapinga — an area along the Great Dyke in Mashonaland West Province — he could not help noticing the massive land degradation being inflicted on the environment by Chinese nationals who are mining chrome.
“It is happening in Mapinga, where there is massive degradation of the environment by Chinese nationals panning for chrome,” he said.
“Indigenous trees that have been there since the formation of the earth are being uprooted and the topsoil carried to a makeshift plant for washing. If this wanton destruction is not stopped, the result will be desertification.
“With the rate at which the excavations are taking place, there will be no trees and grass even for the locals, who have been using the land for pasture for their livestock. The road is now also in a sorry state, caused by the heavy-duty trucks being used.”
Feeling that he still hadn’t quite done enough, Bonono decided to engage EMA, who promised they would send their inspectors to the site. On his follow-up visit to EMA, he demanded to know what the inspectors’ report said and whether the Chinese nationals had received from EMA the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to allow them to undertake such a project. In the case that they had, it was his mission to understand why EMA would grant an EIA for projects that damaged the environment. But he was only able to speak to EMA provincial manager for Mashonaland West, Eunice Mutepfa, who reportedly said she had not yet seen the inspectors’ report and was not aware if the project had been given the green light by EMA. she promised to come back to him — which she had not done by the time of going to print.
As I wait to gather enough information on the circumstances surrounding the said ruinous operations by the Chinese in the Mapinga area, I thought I would start by applauding Bonono and all the other environmental stewards out there who have made it their job to not let anyone — no matter how powerful or well-connected they may be — get away with wanton environmental destruction.
There are many activities that go on in the communities we live in, or visit, that adversely affect the environment, such as uncontrolled sand poaching, indiscriminate tree cutting, littering, wetland destruction, water pollution, wildlife poaching, veld fires, among other acts that — if continued unabated — will ensure future generations are left with nothing to inherit.
It is not enough for one to simply adhere to environmentally-friendly habits as being environmental stewards requires looking out for those activities that aid the destruction of the environment and calling them out. One only has to look at the devastating effects the global scourge called Climate Change is having on a country like ours — where the punishingly unbearable heat waves have become a daily thing and droughts an expected occurrence — to tell what humanity goes through when activities that devastate the earth are allowed to continue unchallenged.
Surely, until such a day that each person makes the conscious decision to become an environmental steward with the responsibility to help safeguard the environment, we will have very little to pass on to future generations.