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Government must shape up or ship out

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Zimbabweans are looking for alternative fuel. Currently, firewood and wood-based charcoal are the most popular household fuels.

What with severe load-shedding and drying water taps.
With perennial load-shedding, wood for charcoal is becoming scarcer and demand for it has led to soaring prices and created environmental destruction.

We face compounding biodiversity, food, fuel, economic and climate crises.

The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is however fundamental to addressing these crises, and charting a truly sustainable path for humanity.

Due to the fuel, economic and climate crises we are facing, urban set-ups like the growing Gokwe farming town have been hit by grievous water crisis resulting in residents resorting to fetching water from shallow wells, water flowing under bridges and broken water pipes, exposing them to health hazards.

Residents, mostly in high-density suburbs in most urban areas, wake up at midnight daily to queue at a few water taps trickling the precious liquid with the rest resorting to digging unprotected shallow wells in the nearby wetland for drinking and other domestic use.

Gokwe, some 350km south-west of Harare, like other towns, uses water drawn from a borehole but due to regular power cuts, the water pump is always off.

Council chair Darlington Mudondo says the town is facing critical water shortage, threatening another cholera outbreak as the rainy season beckons.

“We have a perennial water crisis here which we believe will be solved only by finishing up the construction of Gwehava Dam, because the borehole, which pumps water to the entire areas, is being affected by power cuts and pressure from the growing Gokwe population,” he said.

Gokwe water is still in the hands of the discredited Zimbabwe National Water Authority after the council and the water authority failed to reach a consensus over sewer and water hand-over/take-over.

The problem remains unresolved to date while the misunderstanding is affecting service delivery. The town is perennially without electricity, and therefore purified water.

Yet, nature’s riches can play a major role in poverty eradication, only if the government and businesses recognise the true economic value of the goods and services our environment provides us.

The country has 16% of its land area occupied by wildlife and protected forests.

That is the central message in a recent publication by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Birdlife International and Pavan Sukhdev — leader of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study.

Environment and Natural Resources Management minister Francis Nhema says Zimbabwe has to make key decisions that could determine whether current and future generations continue to benefit from nature’s riches.

Unequivocal climate trends, such as warming trends across the country, and an increase in heavy rainfall events are already being felt.

Hence biodiversity loss is not only an environmental problem but also a fundamental threat to people’s livelihoods, well-being and ability to confront the impacts of climate change.

Adapting to climate change entails implementing right measures to reduce its negative effects by making the appropriate adjustments and changes.

“The ongoing decline of the world’s biological resources — such as rainforests, coral reefs and agricultural biodiversity — threatens to increase poverty and people’s vulnerability to climate change,” says Dilys Roe, a senior researcher at IIED. “These challenges must be tackled together rather than in isolation.”

The report shows how nature provides humanity with goods and services worth trillions of dollars but warns these benefits are threatened by policies that fail to treat the environment and human well-being as two sides of the same coin.

Biodiversity includes the crops we eat and the insects that pollinate them; the plants we use for both traditional medicines and modern drugs; the bacteria that help create the soil that sustains farming; and the microscopic plankton at the base of food chains that end with fish on our dinner plates.

It includes ecosystems such as forests that regulate water supplies and the global climate.

Changes in rainfall patterns have led to severe water shortages, flooding and soil erosion.

Rising temperatures have also caused shifts in crop-growing seasons and affected food security.

While millions of the world’s poorest people depend heavily on nature for their livelihoods, efforts to use biodiversity to boost incomes often fail — because of poor policies and legal frameworks that govern how biological resources are used and by whom.

“Systems that communities have developed over generations to sustainably manage their natural resources have often been swept aside by policies that favour short-term commercial gains,” says David Thomas of BirdLife International.

“By supporting these communities’ long-term stewardship of the land and the sea, policymakers can tackle two urgent global issues – extreme poverty and the loss of biodiversity – at the same time.”

It outlines the economic, scientific and moral arguments for shifting to a new way of managing the Earth’s resources that brings benefits to all in a sustainable way.

It is my contention that biological resources can lift people out of poverty and help the country to build a green economy. But for this to happen the true value of biodiversity must be included in economic valuations and government policies.

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