For environmentally friendly initiatives
By Elson Mankhomwa And Patson Kuwerengeza:
The international and local media have published many stories on environmental degradation whose consequences include depletion of natural resources, hunger, disease and poverty.
However, there are also many success stories on initiatives and interventions by community participation on nature conservation and community development.
There are many ways that lead to land degradation and environmental waste. Among the most common are air pollution and other pollutants such as littering and poor sanitary practices. Poor waste management like emissions from factory refuse and burning of manufactured objects like motor vehicle tyres causes severe pollution.
Communities that engage in tree logging coupled with cultivation along river banks also contribute to land devastations that negatively affect eco-systems.
Bare lands that are prone to soil erosion become barren and dead. In turn, soils and debris from arid land is washed down by rain to pollute streams, rivers and lakes. Winds move freely and faster on bare land, thereby, spreading dust and other air pollutants.
Pollution of any type paints a bad image on a place and country and is much so a health hazard to the nation and the world.
Visiting Zambia for the first time in 1981, one would learn how people could demonstrate pride over the tidiness of their land. Chingola is situated way north of the country’s Copper Belt but probably boasts the most spectacular slogan.
As one enters Chingola, a billboard splashes greetings in the most charming fashion: ‘Welcome to Chingola, the cleanest town in Zambia’. And looking at their streets and avenues at the time, one would believe residents lived up to their slogan but those that knew better would quickly say – ‘some time back, not now’.
Nevertheless, that billboard, about the cleanest town, would live on in one’s imagination.
Blantyre, for those that know better, used to enjoy a reputation as the cleanest city in Africa – yes, in Africa. Living in Chitawira Township in the 1960s would enliven memories of a time when a clean and well-covered trashcan on the roadside was a norm for each and every household – all supplied by the city council. The streets were clean.
The refuse collecting vehicle made regular rounds in Naperi, Kanjedza, Chitawira and other townships like it does to this day in Blantyre Central Business District.
Up to late 1990s, the reserved forests of Soche, Michiru and Ndirande were intact with smaller animals like antelopes frequently visible even during daylight. Today much of the hills surrounding Blantyre City are virtually bare.
The country’s population in 1960s was 4 million (against todays 17.5 million) and the towns had a much smaller population. Industrial growth was restricted and rivers had clean water, partially due to the country’s colonial background.
The pre-independence federal government preferred better social and economic structures in Zimbabwe (headquarters of Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federation) with the largest white settler community and, to a lesser extent, Zambia because of its copper mines and proximity to Harare. Malawi’s development structures lagged behind its imposed federation partners.
Today’s town dwellers in medium and high density areas can afford proper waste management and prevent littering and pollution. Councils, too, should provide rubbish depository facilities at each and every turn on city streets.
More efforts on environmental conservation are indeed concentrated in towns and cities, possibly because of the larger populations of the urban areas.
Urban communities have had more than their fair share on environmental destruction – carefree manufacturing companies, unscrupulous timber traders, wood fuel vending, illegal and unplanned settlements and irresponsible subsistence farming and unprincipled charcoal burning.
Rural populations have also contributed massively to pollution and land waste through burning of forests, careless tree chopping for timber and charcoal and also indiscriminate cultivation along water reservoirs for subsistence farming. In certain instances, rural areas have been more devastated than some protected urban areas.
There are visible and commendable efforts by government and environment advocates on conservation measures to restore depleted forests and land resources in both rural and urban settings.
Tree seedlings have been supplied for reforestation throughout the country. Family-planning and health programmes are monitored by authorities, stakeholders and a robust media in support of environmental upkeep and better livelihood. Fishing on the lakes is controlled.
Local authorities have played a leading role in environmental preservation and national development though a lot still needs to be done.
In the 1980s and 90s, the City of Zomba had impressive programmes on household sanitation and ecological cleanliness for urban communities. The city council used to conduct competitions on environmental health and hygiene for residents of elected communities. Winning houses would be awarded with shopping vouchers, grocery hampers, cash and consolation prizes as incentives for their contribution to making the city clean.
According to recent media reports, some communities in Mzuzu and Lilongwe are taking initiatives on environmental health awareness.
In Chiputula, Mzuzu residents have instituted by-laws to improve health and sanitation. During a meeting with the communities convened by National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust, local leadership and citizens decided that anyone found throwing waste anywhere would be fined K5,000 and have vowed to ensure adherence. Nice officials commended the Chiputula communities for taking matters regarding waste disposal seriously.
In Lilongwe, the city council commended Chinsapo Township residents for team-work on cleaning up their surroundings during the sanitation and hygiene week from September 23 to 27 2019.
Local authorities and district officials showered praise on Chinsapo and Ngwenya residents for participating in sanitation and health awareness campaigns in their communities as a great contribution in keeping Lilongwe City clean.
In Blantyre, urban communities in townships, like other Malawian towns, do conform to safety and hygiene practices. The main produce market at Ndirande has decent and well-kept bathrooms for public use at a minimal maintenance fee.
However, many smaller local-produce markets are lacking in social facilities and littering is a big challenge in all parts of the country. Total conformity to proper environmental safety and hygiene practices requires concerted efforts by everybody.
Fines and the total revenue realised from environmental crimes must be channelled to development projects and in a transparent manner to encourage compliance and more cooperation.
Government and stakeholders should inspire more initiatives for increased social participation in eco-friendly systems at community, district and national levels.
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