AFRICANGLOBE – The United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly scheduled for August in Victoria Falls has multiplied focus on a town that is already the centre of worldwide attraction. Similarly, attention on the town’s environmental scorecard has also expanded. That is why Zimbabwe’s Africa Environment Day or the Wangari Maathai Day commemorations for this year were moved to the resort town.
For two days last week, angry brooms harrowed through the streets of Victoria Falls seeking to restore decency. Many trees were planted. All this, as part of a national campaign to eliminate litter, limit land pollution and promote good environmental management practices.
Building clean, climate smart cities for a sustainable future, that’s the objective. However, it will take much more than a day’s (or two) street clean-up work to build these model cities and towns, which are climate smart and resilient.
Several sectors such as transport, sewer and waste management will require rigorous reform to improve efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. But if implemented effectively with clearly defined pre- and post-scenario mechanisms, one-day street clean-ups may be a sound footing to achieving long-term, sustainable litter and pollution control in Zimbabwe.
The most important factor for this strategy to work are people: communities need to buy into the projects, they need to own them, they need to take responsibility. They need to take responsibility of disposing of refuse in its rightful place – the bin, and of cleaning up when it is recklessly misplaced, both in the home and on the street.
Now, as Zimbabwe remembered the important works of leading Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, after whom the day has been renamed, this sense of community ownership was evident in the Victoria Falls.
Mr Steady Kangata, spokesperson for the Environmental Management Agency, said the two-day street clean-up in the holiday town showed a new positive trend in which local communities, businesses, the church and Government are working together to kick garbage out from the streets.
He said although waste collection and disposal remained a major challenge in places like Harare, it was encouraging to realise communities were now taking charge. Groups such as the Catholic and Methodist churches had even set aside special days to promote environmental protection through street clean-ups.
Cities like Mutare and Bulawayo have improved quite significantly in the management of waste.
Mr Kangata said: “We have understood that involving the individual and communities in projects like these will produce the best possible results.
The bottom-up approach, in which communities buy into and initiate clean-up campaigns, as opposed to the top-down approach, will be very crucial for the future of sustainable management of waste in Zimbabwe.
“This is also why, as we commemorated the AED this year, we have deliberately moved away from ceremonial speechified events to real action, for two days.”
The AED is celebrated every March 3 across Africa. Some of the biggest environmental concerns facing Zimbabwe today include deforestation, soil erosion, land degradation air, land and water pollution.