Wetlands depletion: Parliament castigates EMA

By Daniel Chigundu

Zaka Central legislator Paradzai Chakona has accused the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) of concentrating on collecting fines while neglecting their role of protecting the environment.

EMA was created through the EMA Act of 2002 to provide for the sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment; the prevention of pollution and environmental degradation.

However, despite the existence of EMA, environmental laws have continued to be violated without much action being taken by the agency.

Last week concerned civil society organisations took to the streets to demonstrate against depletion of wetlands and went on to hand a petition to Parliament.

Speaking in the National Assembly during debate on a motion moved by Honourable James Maridadi on the protection and preservation of wetlands, Honourable Chakona blamed EMA for not doing anything to protect the environment.

“Another point is that the stream bank cultivation that we have allowed in our nation has heavily affected the environment and it is continuing even to this date. Nobody is doing anything. I do not know where EMA is. In my village, they sometimes come and then make people pay fines and that is it. They just walk away.

“I do not think paying a fine will actually remedy the damage that is being done to the environment by perpetrators of environmental degradation. The siltation is continuing and at the same time, EMA is simply collecting $20 and they are not agents of collecting money.

“Government sets aside money to finance EMA and its activities and not for EMA to do fundraising through allowing people that are doing environmental degradation to continue,” he said.

Adding her voice to the debate, Harare West legislator Jessie Majome said she was dismayed that in her constituency there are construction works happening on wetlands right in the glare of EMA and nothing is being done to them.

“I also want to express my dismay at the Environmental Management Agency. I agree very much with Hon. Chakona that they should not be a fundraising enterprise where they just fine people.

“However, I am concerned about them from a different dimension; EMA happens to have its headquarters interestingly in Harare West Constituency along Lorain Drive, there is a rampant construction on wetlands. It is happening right in the glare of EMA, for example, if you go straight Harare Drive, past Lorain Drive to the right near Cotswold Hills, there are houses there.

“If you go further, there is an area that is near Mabelreign Civic Centre where there is the swimming pool, EMA has under its very watch allowed people to build and develop houses belonging to a certain bank, which I understand was Kingdom Bank. Because of the streams that Hon. Maridadi was showing, there are streams that are active, they had to dig very deep foundations and tried to divert the course of a stream that is naturally occurring,” she said.

Proportional Representation legislator Esther Chikuni revealed that there was a lot of environmental crimes happening especially in Chimanimani where people are farming in wetlands while others are burning forests at will.

Honourable Chikuni urged EMA to educate communities on the importance of preserving the environment and not be a money-spinning venture.

“I am calling upon EMA, which is responsible for the conservation of the environment, not to be a money-spinning venture where people planting in those wetlands are simply made to pay fines. They need to be educated on the importance of these wetlands and they can be fined afterwards.

“Unfortunately, after EMA gives a notice for people not to plough in those areas, they do not make a follow up to check whether people would have responded to their education and this leads to siltation,” she said.

In previous interviews, EMA highlighted that they are under-funded and that at times they don’t get the funding which then affects their ability to discharge their functions.

EMA also complained of a shortage of patrol vehicles for adding that its fleet was worn out and constantly breaking and cannot cover the whole country.

There is reportedly a shortage of personnel at the institution which results in some place not being adequately covered.

Meanwhile, Honourable Maridadi has called on the government to be transparent and demonstrate the political will to enforce existing legislation on the preservation of wetlands.

The Mabvuku-Tafara legislator added that “there must be a correct interpretation of legislation including the Ramsar recommendations by EMA, the City of Harare and the Ministry of Local Government.

“Wetland preservation to ensure Harare’s fragile wetland ecosystems are able to provide critical ecosystems and services, for example, water provisioning.

“All my recommendations talk about two things that Government must be transparent and that there must be no development on wetlands,” he said.

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