Home » General » Catch Them Young – EMA [opinion]

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) works with various stakeholders in fulfilling its mandate of ensuring the sustainable utilisation of natural resources and the protection of the environment. Schools are one such stakeholder grouping and working with them inculcates responsibility among school children because they are the future leaders.

Environmental stewardship is necessary in all school children as it leads to the responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices.

It also falls in line with sustainable development which is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The Environmental Management Agency began working with schools in 2010 through School Debate, Environmental School Projects Competitions as well as School Talk Shows.

The debates ensure that information on topical environmental issues such as waste management, veldt fires, degradation and climate change is disseminated.

School projects equip school children with environment management skills where they identify environmental problems within the vicinity of their schools andor communities and address them by carrying out projects such as waste sorting and recycling, gulley reclamation, nutritional gardens, reforestation programmes to mention but a few.

An average of 800 schools participate in the debates and school projects competitions countrywide and the agency has witnessed positive results from these initiatives. Some schools have benefited from environmental projects and in certain instances communities have taken up some of the initiatives, thus taking up the role of environment stewards.

Environmental schools debates have been adopted by the agency as an avenue to cascade environmental information in line with the Environmental Management Act Chapter (20:27) which states that “everyone has a right to environmental information… ” Involving our youth in environmental programmes ensures a brighter future for generations to come, our youth particularly pupils in school are an indispensable avenue through which environmental information can be cascaded to every part of the country.

It is against this background that EMA launched environmental school debates in 2010 its purpose is to train young people who may in future be required to debate and resolve matters that affect our everyday life.

This year’s topic is ‘Prosecution and not environmental education is the best way to reduce veldt fires in Zimbabwe.’

This has been necessitated by the prevalence of veld fires countrywide, in order to reach out to the affected areas and enlighten citizens, the debate competition runs from district, provincial right up to national level.

Harare held its Provincial Debate Competition on July 4, 2014 at Queen Elizabeth High School.

Ellis Robins emerged as the winner on the affirmative side while Highfield High 1 won for the non-affirmative side.

Why is the environment important to us?

The term “environment” is used to refer to our surroundings: Land, water, atmosphereair, minerals, plant and animal life.

Our lives are dependent on the environment it therefore, plays a pivotal role on our well-being. Living healthy lives requires that we breathe clean air and drink safe water, live in clean areas with good sanitary conditions.

When the environment becomes degraded and polluted, it affects us all either in the short or long run regardless of our social and economic status.

We all strive for an improved quality of life, enhanced social welfare, significant reduction of environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

Our children are also entitled to better opportunities, health and happy lives. As such, the need for economic development, social justice and a healthy, sustainable environment cannot be taken for granted.

Environmental Rights

Environmental rights like human rights are an entitlement of every human being irrespective of class, religion, level of education, race or creed.

It is important and necessary for people to know and be aware of their environmental rights. Such knowledge enables individuals and communities to add their voices to environmental justice whenever their rights are infringed.

What does the Environmental Management Act (Cap 20:27) says about Environmental Rights?

In Zimbabwe environmental rights are legally recognised through the Environmental Management Act (CAP 20:27). The Act clearly states that every person should have a right to:

A clean environment that is not harmful to health

Access to environmental information

Protect the environment for the benefit of present and future generations and participate in the implementation of the promulgation of reasonable legislative, policy and other measures that:

1. Prevent pollution and environmental degradation.

2. Secure ecologically sustainable management and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic social development.

From the above, it is clear that the responsibility to the full realisation of environmental rights requires everyone’s participation and involvement.

It is our responsibility to ensure the environment is protected for the benefit of the present and future generations.

Source : The Herald