Everyone has an important role to play in making the right to a healthy environment a reality.


27 July 2023

By Clarity Sibanda

A safe and healthy environment is a precondition for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights. For communities to protect and conserve the environment, it is important that they appreciate what environmental rights are. This week ZELA is in Binga, where the organization is training community monitors on environmental issues and how they can utilize the knowledge to advance environmental protection and sustainable natural resource management. At the fore of these discussions are issues pertaining to environmental rights and community monitoring for safeguarding these rights and addressing existing environmental concerns.

In his presentation, Ignatious Maeresa highlighted that we all depend on the environment in which we live. Section 73 of the Zimbabwe Constitution also notes that Everyone has a right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being and to have their environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures. He added that a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is integral to the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, and water, among others.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly recognizes the links between human rights, development, and the environment, including biological diversity and climate. The interrelationship between environmental sustainability and the different Sustainable Development Goals is based not only on reducing environmental damage but also on preserving the role of natural resources and ecosystem services in promoting human wellbeing, economic opportunities, and social and ecological resilience. The health of ecosystems, biodiversity, pollution in all its forms, and climate change are increasingly being recognized as the grave threats to human health, dignity, and well-being.

Participants acknowledged that there is an urgent need to enhance environmental protection.

“Environmental degradation, poaching, human-wildlife conflict, and water pollution are some of the challenges we are faced with”. We really appreciate this training, and the knowledge we have gained will enable us to ensure that we protect and conserve the environment. We hope that our stakeholders will be swift in responding to some of the cases we usually report, such as human-wildlife conflict. Last week, one of us lost four cattle that were killed by lions. These lions are causing havoc in our community (Manyanda).”

ZELA’s Bertha Fellow, Hazel Chimbiro, went on to introduce the community monitoring tool that communities can utilize to monitor environmental cases, report them, and even capture detailed information on how the case was resolved. ZELA acknowledges that the enjoyment of all human rights, including the rights to information, participation, and access to justice, is of great importance to the protection of the environment.
The environmental rights trainings targeting community environmental monitors and being supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) will be conducted in five Wards that fall under the Binga Rural District Council. After the conclusion of this phase of trainings a total of 12 wards under the Binga Rural District Council will have been trained on environmental rights. The organization hopes that the trainings will build the capacity of the community monitors on environmental issues and equip them with the requisite knowledge and tools on environmental rights and how the rights can be used to advance environmental protection and natural resource management.

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