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Include local community rights in new constitution

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Environmentalists have called upon Zimbabweans to advocate for clauses in the new constitution that will respect the rights of local communities to their natural resources as they are the owners and custodians of the environment.

Gladman Chibememe, of the Chibememe Earth Healing Association, Shamiso Mtisi and Mutuso Dhliwayo of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, this week said Zimbabweans should demand rights to an environment that is not harmful to their health.

Chibememe said if local communities who lived in mineral-rich areas like Chiadzwa, or wildlife-endowed areas like Gonarezhou were to benefit from natural resources in those communities, they would feel encouraged to preserve them.

“The new constitution should capture words like ‘local communities’ to make sure their rights over natural resources around them are secured. That would also make them true custodians of the environment,” said Chibememe.

He said local communities faced losses associated with biodiversity, like loss of crops and livestock due to attacks by wild animals and as such, they deserved to benefit from those environments.

Dhliwayo said every Zimbabwean should have rights to access to environmental and natural resources management information.

He said people should demand the rights to have the environment and natural resources protected for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevented pollution and ecological degradation.

“Access to environmental information is important to ensure that people are aware of what is happening in the environmental fields, and of any environmental harm,” said Dhliwayo.

Mtisi, an environmental lawyer, said people should demand that the new constitution include the right to a safe working environment.

He said while the current legislation, the Factory and Works Act, provided for a safe working environment, there were links that were not provided for in the constitution.“This is a critical issue,” Mtisi said.

He said the problem with environmental legislation was that it was not easily enforceable.

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