Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent
THE fight against the effects of climate change requires an ‘‘all hands on deck’’ approach.
Lately, the country has been grappling with veld fires which have been wreaking havoc amid the shocking revelation that the country is losing 100 000 hectares of land to veld fires yearly.
Deforestation is also a challenge, prompting the Government to wage a war against the rampant cutting down of trees.
While Central Government can be commended for playing its role as the main custodian of natural resources, local authorities have been found wanting in that regard.
The lack of environmentally friendly by-laws within local authorities has been put under the spotlight with the
Environmental Management Authority (Ema) recently conducting a capacity-building workshop in the mining town of Kwekwe, which has been affected by environmental degradation owing to its vast natural resources.
Ema director for environmental protection, Mr Christopher Mushava said local authorities must formulate by-laws to protect the environment with municipal police officers having the power to enforce them.
“We have noted that local authorities’ by-laws are outdated in terms of current and emerging environmental issues.
This is why we are losing a lot of natural resources to people who cut down trees unregulated,” he said.
He reminded councils that they were the first line of defence in the fight against climate change hence the key role they must play in the climate change fight.
“Councils are key and strategic because they are a total system and environment is at their doorstep. They are the first line of defence in terms of environment. We need to continue putting our foot on the pedal as a department so that we see to it that cutting down of trees and other ills end,” said Mr Mushava.
A member of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations, Engineer Martin Manhuwa believes local authorities can do more in the fight against the effects of climate change.
“Of course, they play a key role especially in ensuring that deforestation and stream bank cultivation is stopped but also, they should go a step further and avoid disturbing wetlands through allocation stands within wetlands,” he said.
Eng Manhuwa said it was high time councils also started implementing integrated water management methods in a bid to conserve water so as to deal with droughts and floods.
Eng Manhuwa also said local authorities should adopt building codes which meet climate change variables as well as practise effective energy use.
University lecturer and environmentalist, Mr Tawanda Collins Muzamwese weighed in saying local authorities need to embrace climate friendly buildings in the types of houses they are constructing.
He believes the management of amenities like sewage handling systems is of key importance.
“The management of sewerage should be one that does not generate methane gas which has a very high global warming potential. Waste management should be prioritised and it should be turned into a situation whereby each household should be able to manage if not recycle their own waste and solid waste converting it into energy,” said Mr Muzamwese.
He said most local authorities were losing treated water to leakages, meaning more chemicals should be applied in the purification of water.
Director of Climate Change Management in the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mr Washington Zhakata said the Government was committed to fighting the effects of climate change adding that local authorities have a huge role to play in that fight.
“A lot needs to happen not only within the Government set-up, but by every other stakeholder including local authorities. It is high time they start thinking along the lines of waste implementation of projects into energy. They should start thinking along the lines of incinerators so that waste is converted into energy,” he said.
He said it was worrying that most local authorities were losing about 40 percent of their treated water to leakages and urged them to address such issues which exacerbate climate change.
He said local authorities play a role in curbing unsustainable land use like stream bank cultivation, deforestation and settlement on wetlands among others.
Mr Zhakata believes municipal police officers can do better in preventing stream bank cultivation which results in siltation.
He said there was a global process of phasing out some refrigerating systems.
“There is a process currently of phasing out hydro-flouro carbon refrigeration because they have a high global warming potential. This means that new refrigeration within homes, in council offices and in mortuaries will have to be replaced,” said Mr Zhakata.
Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe president Councillor Josiah Makombe, who is also mayor of Gweru, seems to be leading from the front if recent developments in his city are anything to go by.
Gweru City Council recently announced that it will soon embark on a five-year integrated waste management programme as part of efforts to improve management of garbage and climate change.
“As one of the ways to address the solid waste challenges, the city will be launching a five-year integrated waste management plan. The emphasis in the contents of the plan is the 3r concept of reduction at source, reuse of materials and recycling. The plan will unlock value in waste. Waste is money; it can be used to generate energy, recycling, among others, is an income-generating project from waste,” he said.
Clr Makombe said his city intends to reuse 60 percent of its waste by 2025.
“There is consensus that Gweru City Council would reduce the waste disposal at landfills from the current 100 percent to 40 percent of the total waste generated by 2025. This means that 60 percent of the waste generated would be recycled and reused for biogas generation,” he said.
Clr Makombe however, said Gweru, like other urban authorities across the country, is facing challenges in collecting refuse owing to inadequate equipment and fuel, among others. The situation has left residents exposed to both air and water-borne diseases. — @michaelmagoron1