Rights group calls for specialised environmental courts, tribunals 

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By Felix Matasva 

THE Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has challenged government to set up environmental courts and tribunals as there are related crimes that can be handled better through such developments in the justice sector. 

ZELA’s position was shared on Sunday, as part of commemorations of World Environment Day, celebrated on June 5 every year. 

This year’s commemorations ran under the theme dubbed: ‘Only One Earth’ highlighting the need to sustainably live in harmony with nature by coming up with transformative changes through policies and choices towards cleaner, circular economy, and greener lifestyles. 

ZELA said that environmental problems including biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change are environmental crimes that impede the enjoyment of environmental rights protected under Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s constitution. 

“The establishment of specialised courts or tribunals is in line with the recommendation in the Environmental Management Agency Strategic Plan (2021-2025). This will ensure a speedy remedy to any threat to the environment be it in the form of deforestation or pollution. 

“There is also need to continuously raise awareness amongst stakeholders including in the judiciary on the importance of a healthy environment and environmental principles which are in place to protect the environment,” reads part of ZELA’s statement. 

The rights group castigated poor implementation and enforcement of laws coupled with policies, saying it is a major setback towards achievement of a healthy environment in the country.

Its calls come as Zimbabwe has over the past years been recording increased cases of land degradation by locals in the mining sector and some of the Chinese investors involved in the same field.

“There is need for a robust implementation of laws and policies. Zimbabwe has sound laws and policies that can help address environmental issues related to climate change, environmental degradation, and pollution,” said ZELA. 

It added: “There is need for effective participation by all relevant stakeholders in policy formulation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. 

While Zimbabwe has some progressive laws, policies and regulations that include provisions for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIAs), the recommendation is that in implementing the legal, regulatory and policy frameworks, the State should ensure inclusive participation of children, people with disabilities and youths to enhance ownership of programmes thereby enabling successful implementation of projects.”  

This year’s celebrations are quite significant as the world is marking 50 years since the 1972 Stockholm Conference that led to the formation of the United Nations environment programme. 

It was during the same conference when June 5 was designated as the World Environment Day.