PARLIAMENT has recommended the establishment of an Environment Commission by January next year to protect the environment, including wetlands.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The issue was suggested in a recent report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment chaired by Proportional Representation MP Yeukai Simbanegavi.
It was in response to a petition by lobby group Blue Agenda on behalf of residents of Kambuzuma Section 3, who had asked Parliament to compel the Environment minister to revoke the Environmental Impact Assessment certificate for a service station in the high-density suburb.
The residents felt that the project would harm the environment and should be abandoned.
“The Executive should consider establishing an Environmental Commission in the manner of the Independent Commissions by January 2019, which should be responsible for the appointment of the Environmental Management board in order to secure the board’s independence from executive interference,” the committee report said.
“While the establishment of the commission is being considered, the National Environmental Council should be constituted as required by law by end of July 2018.”
Other recommendations by the committee were that the Environment minister should review and update the environmental plan by the end of January 2019 as required by the Environmental Management Act.
“The plan should proscribe any development on wetlands other than in exceptional cases of a public interest which overrides the need for the wetlands, and under strict conditions,” the report added.
The committee also called for alignment of the Environmental Management Act with the Constitution.
“This would provide for an absolute prohibition of construction on wetlands other than in the case of overriding public necessity when another constitutional right would be infringed if the development did not proceed. This would also advance the constitutional right to clean water and obligations to protect biodiversity,” the report said.
On environmental violations, the committee said government should establish an environmental tribunal to investigate them by the end of July.
“The tribunal should be composed of legally qualified commissioners with expertise in environmental issues and have punitive jurisdiction. It should take over the functions of the EMA board. The Environment minister should bring a new Bill to Parliament governing wetlands and covering the problem of private individuals holding title deeds over wetlands by May 2019,” the committee said.
Harare, in particular, and other urban settings across the country have suffered untold environmental degradation, with politicians blamed for the sprouting of settlements and building on wetlands.