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Let's save Nkayi from irresponsible timber extraction!

07 Oct 2020 at 08:22hrs | Views
One can not silently bear the pain and sadness of the wanton harvesting of the teak and pine trees from Sivomo and Gwampa Forests, in Nkayi District, coupled with the degradation of the enamel-rich soil of Dakamela. The act is antidevelopment as it destroys the environment at the expense of ordinary local Nkayians who have been protecting their environment since the white settlers forced them into the area. Unfortunately, they have not been properly consulted and predictably will gain nothing from the whole catastrophic situation. The inconsiderate harvesting of the Nkayi timber and enamel clay is malicious and against the dictates of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7 which proposes Environmental Sustainability as an important route to sustainable development. Accordingly, the current environmental violations of Nkayi natural resources should be unwelcome and head-clamped as a matter of urgency, if the district is to survive the onslaught.

An insult to modern development practice
The harvesting of the clay and the forests by the individuals or companies concerned does not seem to follow modern development practice which should be adopted in such circumstances, chief among them, being community-wide consultations and mutual benefit from the proceeds of resource extraction. Contemporary civilised development approaches and accompanying legislation require, at the very minimum, extensive community consultations and involvement way ahead of any commencement of a project that affects community life, history, culture, livelihood and heritage. In that regard, it is imperative for the companies to concede that although they could be in private profit- seeking endeavors, (through their monetary muscle and advantage), local Nkayians physically and culturally own Gwampa and Sivomo Forests and should have been primarily and timeously consulted for either consent or dissent to any proposed business initiative thereof, by anybody whatsoever. The preferred option would then hinge on whether the need for individual profit-making outweighs that of preservation of the environment and its inherent resources, vice versa. Sadly the current and cruel demolition of the Nkayi forests and the gorging of the lands of Dakamela is a symbol of complete defiance and collision with the dictates of modern development practice of environmental protection, social inclusivity, and mutual consideration in decision-making on matters of public interest. This is despite the fact that heritage is immensely under threat from human economic development, even at global level, thereby unequivocally calling for the intensification of protective and mitigation measures to ensure that current heritage resources like the victimised natural resources of Nkayi will also be available for use by both the present and future generations. The fact that the environment is under

threat even at global level should compel anyone including the current perpetrator company, to ensure its protection and conservation.

Molestation of the Constitution
The destruction of our natural resources in Nkayi is a defiant molestation of the constitution. Section 73 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013, states that:

1) Every person has the right –

a) To an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and

b) To have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that –

¡) prevent pollution and ecological degradation; ¡¡) promote conservation; and

¡¡¡) secure ecologically sustainable development and secure use of natural resources while promoting economic and social development.

However, it is sad to note that there is no evidence to suggest that these constitutional provisions are observed by the exploiters with respect to the harvesting of Nkayi resources by the tourist organisations concerned. The promotion of economic and social development of Nkayi are brazenly ignored.

Violation of International Agreements
A number of international agreements to which Zimbabwe is a signatory are being more than violated. Among them are:
Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development from the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. This Principle states that "the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet the developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations". In the same vein, the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development by the UN posits that sustainable development is one "that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". Nkayi also deserves such advancement in the living conditions of her people through the respect of its environment by anybody including the Nkayians themselves. Which resources will future generations benefit from considering the current state of damage to the trees and earth?
The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD) is another legally binding international agreement which came into force on the 29th of December 1993. The CBD ensures that "ecosystems, species and genetic resources are used for the benefit of humans, but in a way that does not lead to a decline in biodiversity". This Convention recognises that the conservation of biodiversity is a common concern for humankind and is an integral part of the development process. Nkayi, like any other place in Zimbabwe and globally, deserves the unencumbered expansion and health of its biodiversity. Sadly, the fortune- seekers are making that a pipedream.

More so, Agenda 21, the brainchild of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, believes that sustainable development is only possible through involving society as a whole including community groups, minorities, businesses and suchlike, so that everyone is involved and backs the plans. In this respect, the involvement of the people of Nkayi in the protection of their resources cannot be overemphasised. One naturally wonders how would Nkayi resources possibly meet the needs of future generations when they are being plundered willy-nilly like this! Nkayi is a culturally diverse district that welcomes anybody seeking a livelihood. Sadly and annoyingly, when you give a hand to some people, they cut off your whole arm for their leisurely supper with their cousins and kinsmen.

Suggested approach or methodology
The companies in question and all officials involved could have done their reputation and the people of Nkayi a huge favour by adopting a clear pathway leading to the proposed devilish harvesting of our resource-filled natural habitat . One would humbly highlight that they should have carried out comprehensive impact assessments and produced a detailed reports thereof, whose findings and outcomes should have been made public. The reports would provide detailed analyses or examinations of the significance of the teak and pine trees, and the ceramics clay, and other resources in the generality of Nkayi to the culture, livelihoods and the environmental well-being of local inhabitants of the victimised district. Such a scientific and culturally sensitive approach would provide a sound and indisputable stand-point for the harvesting, or conversely, the preservation of our golden trees. To take away our only available but scarce resources, is to strip us naked in broad daylight for strangers to see our intestines. No measure of the disrespect surpasses that.

Impact assessment reports
It is common knowledge that any development initiative or project should be preceded by a relevant impact assessment and a relevant report produced thereof. Such an assessment should basically cover an archaeological impact assessment(AIA), a social impact assessment(SIA) and an environmental impact assessment(EIA), at the very minimum. Even our grannies in Nkayi expect that. Shockingly, no evidence has been provided to that effect by the timber extracting companies operating in Nkayi or their enablers, unless it has been arrogantly kept private. As a solution, one would suggest that concerned companies and Council diligently adopt the following format of an impact assessment report(adapted from South Africa, 1999) to approach the infamous teak and pine tree exploitation or the ceramics clay projects:

a) Identification and mapping of all heritage resources and ecosystems in the areas affected by the timber or clay exploitation.

b) Analyses or assessments of the impact of the proposed harvesting of the timber on flora and fauna habitats and /or food chains.

c) Evaluation of the impact of the cutting of the trees and scooping of the land relative to sustainable social and economic benefits to the people of Nkayi.

d) Consultation of the communities to establish consent to the resources-extraction. Community participation and involvement is crucial. This sets a very important signature of the social contract of mutual agreement and acceptance. This could come as a measure of the company's commitment to corporate social responsibility(CSR) with regard to caring for the environment.

e) Consideration of alternatives if heritage resources will be negatively affected by the business. For example, the wanton cutting of all teak and pine trees would suggest that they may get obliterated and result in a disaster-susceptible environment.

f) Recommendations of mitigation measures to ameliorate any adverse effects during and after the completion of the proposed extractions. This could involve, say an arrangement that, out of every three teak or pine trees in the vicinity of each other, only one could be harvested. Such an approach could ensure that while controlled exploitation is permitted, the environment is also protected.
This responsible systematic approach could save the natural resources of Nkayi while also projecting a positive image of the profit-seekers.

In addition, the Polluter Pays Principle could apply. This principle identifies the need for the polluter or extractor of the concerned environmental resource to pay for the damage to the environment that their activities cause. This could also include compensation for the stress on our roads that is exerted by the vehicles and equipment belonging to the extracting company or organisation. It could also involve the atonement for the nuisance of noise pollution resulting in the possible displacement of wildlife that is habitat in Nkayi. Examples are endless. Payments received through the Polluter Pays Principle may be used to run programmes to rejuvenate and revitalise the forests and other applicable development programmes, like environmental education in the generality of the district so as to heighten levels of environmental conservation consciousness.

Therefore, it is imperative for the esteemed companies and /or their backers to exercise extreme restraint, caution and respect as they approach this very sensitive subject because to the native people of Nkayi, Gwampa and Sivomo Forests are what the Pyramids are to the Egyptians, or Great Zimbabwe is, to the Wezhiras.

Ultimately, it cannot be overstated that heritage and natural resources conservation should be top priority for sustainable development to be achieved in Nkayi and anywhere in the world. Our

environment is the lifeblood of our existence, and to threaten it is to offset our well-being and cultural worth as a people. Therefore, the timber company and other like-minded individuals and organizations should ensure that they show respect for local cultural heritage resources and communities, including the deliberate recruitment of local human resources, specifically from Nkayi and surrounding areas.

Let's be responsible and save Nkayi from deliberate environmental destruction!

Nhlanhla Moses writes in his capacity as an ordinary Nkayian and can be contacted on :
Email: nhlanhlamoses@gmail.com


Source - Nhlanhla Moses
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