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Mutare City Council discusses sustainable environment management with U.S. Embassy and Environment Africa

April 20, 2011 | Mutare
Environment Africa Director Hewat with Mutare Deputy Mayor Jerison (left) and City Clerk Muzawazi

Environment Africa Director Hewat with Mutare Deputy Mayor Jerison (left) and City Clerk Muzawazi

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Mutare City Council welcomed experts from the United States Embassy and top Zimbabwean environmental nongovernmental organization, Environment Africa, for a discussion of solid waste management and other sustainable environmental practices on Wednesday. The forum was part of Mutare City Council’s commemoration of Earth Day, held annually on April 22 to celebrate the environment and to focus attention on the work still needed to protect natural resources.

"It is significant to see local authorities focusing on environmental issues as we commemorate the 41st anniversary of World Earth Day," said Michael Brooke, Public Diplomacy Officer at the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section. "Local authorities often set the pace for a community, and leadership on this issue from the Council makes a big difference," said Brooke.

The meeting was attended by city staff and councilors, including Deputy Mayor George Jerison and City Clerk Obert Muzawazi.

"Think about your sustainable policy, and under that will come your environmental policy," said Charlene Hewat of Environment Africa, who also reminded the city authorities that waste management plans are a legal requirement.

Hewat said sustainable development includes four pillars: policy, economics, society and the biophysical environment.

"When you talk about the environment you also have four pillars: life, land, air and water," Hewat added, challenging city authorities to engage in partnerships with the private sector and community organizations. Hewat’s organisation has spearheaded several environmental cleanup campaigns in what Deputy Mayor George Jerison described as the "diamond city".

Chronicling some of the plans Mutare City had engaged in, city council officials cited economic, social and political challenges in their attempts to implement environmental management plans. 

"We have found some difficulty in trying to recycle," said Simon Mashababe, Director of Health Services.  Mashababe cited the difficult economic situation as well as transport challenges associated with trying to recycle used vehicles. However, he noted, councilors were taking a lead in waste recycling activities.

"We reached a new dawn where we worked together with our community. Knowledge came that those mountains of refuse were actually gold. In one instance, neighbours actually fought for a heap of refuse after learning that it could be used as manure," said Mashababe.

But some of the problems are policy related, said the council officials.

"We do not seem to be working very well with the Environment Management Agency (EMA) and we do not seem to understand what they and want and vice versa. Sometimes we find ourselves fined and we complain bitterly,” said Sternard Mapurisana, Housing Director at Mutare City Council. He argued that the campaign towards sustainable environmental management should strive to bridge the relationship between EMA and local authorities."

A U.S. Embassy economics officer, Omar Farooq, shared experiences in sustainable environment management in the U.S.

“In the United States, we have the Environment Protection Agency.  However, our experience shows that it’s more effective to work with tax credits or subsidies where companies are given financial incentives for environmentally sustainable programs,” said Farooq.

The discussion stressed the need for community involvement in ensuring sustainable environment management plans.

“We are very open and we invite any expertise available to us, however the golden factor is community involvement,” said Mazawazi. Several representatives of various nongovernmental organizations working on environmental issues in Mutare attended the meeting. These included Tashinga Community Development Trust, Sustainable Environment Conservation Trust and Natural Resources Society of Mutare.

Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970.  It is intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment. The three themes for Earth Day 2011 are: "Trees for the Earth," "A Billion Acts of Green," and "Women in the Green Economy.”- ZimPAS © April 2011

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