guest column Peter Makwanya
EVERY month, as a nation, Zimbabweans engage in something positive, which is the national clean-up campaign. This is a brainchild of President Emmerson Mnangagwa to see a clean and pollution-free environment, in line with the adage that “cleanliness is next to godliness.”
This has been done after witnessing success stories from fellow African countries such as Rwanda, where the country has been transformed into a torch bearer for cleanliness on the African continent.
Being clean has its advantages too, which include a disease and pollution-free environment as well as sparkling surroundings that are the envy of many, including investors.
Pollution of any kind has been a menace and an eyesore in this country, in such a way that, for a long time, Zimbabwe had degenerated into a bastion of filth and dirt, with sore sites
of garbage strewn all over on several streets.
To compound this sad narrative, burst sewer pipes and sewage flowing in the country’s oldest residential areas has become a common site, sometimes contaminating drinking water sources leading to waterborne diseases and compromising the health of many.
Among the types of pollution in the public domain, land pollution is quite problematic, although this doesn’t render other forms of pollution not worth mentioning.
Land pollution is simply defined as a serious problem that impacts on humans, animals and the earth. Land pollution compounds living standards and lifestyles as well as altering the state of the environment.
Land pollution is a human activity which has, directly and indirectly, been gradually rising to unsustainable levels, hence individuals and companies engaging in this kind of carbon sinning have to honour their mess and pay for their carbon footprints that have polluted the country’s landscape.
Polluters must be arrested and answer to the sins of the environment that have changed the complexion of the country.
While environmental advocates make noise about the world’s largest fossil fuel (oil, gas, coal) companies and even cement manufacturing companies are polluting the environment, thereby contributing to global warming, but on individual and industrial scale, people are doing more harm than good.
While the polluting multinational companies are guilty of carbon emissions, on individual, industrial and national scale, people should demonstrate that they care and that they have their environment at heart.
Whatever level of emission, these groups of people and institutions will be contributing to accelerating the impact of climate change, which also appears to be under-reported as a justification of backgrounding emission levels.
Besides focusing on the international scale, it is always important to take an introspection into the national outlook, where individuals and companies continue to commit pollution-related crimes and injustices without being arrested or made to pay.
In Zimbabwe, it is water pollution which has been talked, written and researched more about, without sufficiently addressing the issues of land pollution and permanent features of garbage, deforestation and land degradation from illegal mining activities.
Polluters often get away with these offences without being reprimanded.
Yet issues of garbage in urban settings have compounded the problem of pollution.
The reason why land pollution is often backgrounded, compared to water pollution, is that land pollution often and always leads to water pollution through run-offs and water percolations.
From the illegal mining activities, deforestations, industrial waste dumping and discharge into water bodies, no major or meaningful arrests have been made, thereby giving the offenders the licence to pollute even more.
In urban areas, it remains the duty of councils and municipalities to collect garbage as part of their service delivery.
It is also their prerogative and duty to sue or arrest individuals, organisations and companies that dump garbage at undesignated sites.
When town and city councils don’t have legal mandates to arrest errant companies and individuals engaging in land pollution crimes, then it is high time they acquire such powers and
save the dire situation.
Once agents of pollution are arrested and made to pay deterrent fines, the fines can be used for regular garbage collection, cleaning and clearing of undesignated dumpsites.
In their waste management practices, municipalities need to embark on continuous cleanliness campaigns and empowering people to be able to clean their environs.
Already, there are companies that have been engaging in illegal waste disposals, and arresting them now may appear a crime because these companies and individuals have been doing this for a long time, hence it has become part of their culture.
These companies, institutions and individuals have become carbon majors of our time and they need to be stopped, educated or at least made aware.
It is high time land pollution is taken as an infringement on the rights of peace loving people.
Living in clean and unpolluted environments is a human right too and this can only prevail and normaliseD by arresting perpetrators of dirty and pollution.
It is possible for municipalities to be sued by residents, communities and associations for not committing themselves to the cleanliness of their towns and cities.
It is the duty of municipalities to provide and preside over clean dwellings and surroundings for their citizens, otherwise failure to do so will get them sued as well, for failing to adhere to the safety concerns of the citizens.
Municipalities, besides clamping vehicles, can also be mandated to fine individuals for illegal dumping or throwing litter around.