Under the National Youth Policy’s Key Strategic Areas enacted over a decade ago, the government pledges to commit to critical areas affecting the young, including those pertaining to the environment.
THE ENVIRONMENT BY KENNEDY NYAVAYA
Part of its fourth provision, also encompassing health and population, the document aims to “promote environmental education and active participation in environmental conservation among the youths.”
A well-intended empowerment masterpiece but its implementation has failed largely as a result of lack in funding and this is a threat to the entire ecosystem of living organisms.
The effects of climate change continue to be felt in all aspects of life and they are marked by soaring temperatures, intoxicated air and dirty water posing a great danger to life sustenance.
As mentioned in the youth strategy there is urgent need to raise awareness among the youth on environmental protection through both formal and informal environmental education.
Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (Yett) in partnership with My Age Zimbabwe, in an attempt to address the climate change and disaster and risk management issue recently sponsored a workshop in Masvingo.
The workshop, which was a brainchild of Yett Winter School class of 2017 alumni from the area, slowly turning arid from semi-arid in a classic example of change in climatic conditions, saw a significant number of youth stakeholders deliberate on the way forward.
According to Pianos Chadya, the founder and chairperson of Friends and Family of Rivers and Lakes in Zimbabwe, it is important to sensitise citizens, especially the young in order to secure a healthy future.
“Our youth policy is clear on the deterioration of the environment and it is a major concern for us the young population because it affects us in present and in future,” he told The Standard Style.
The youth age range according to the policy stretches from 10 to 30 years, with the Constitution stretching it by a further five years.
This means that other age groups largely depend on the support of this largely active demographic for survival as they are either too old or too young to secure own life sustenance.
This explains why in places where resources are scarce, it is the youth that wake up early or sleep late trying to access them.
Water plays a major role in everyday life and that explains its pseudo name “blue gold”, which emphasises its importance.
Apart from the usual daily chores and water’s cooling relief during recurrent hot temperatures, half of the oxygen humans breathe comes from the oceans.
Even for land-locked Zimbabwe, the ocean plays a big part in sustaining life through providing many needed resources such as food, oxygen and water as it carries 97% of it.
Chadya said the greatest enigma is that the majority of people, including the young, are passive and failing to “buy in” to such issues in addition to some relaxed government officials.
“People do not understand that climate change is real because in most instances, only certain areas are greatly affected,” Chadya said, adding that there is need for urgent reaction at a national scale.
“We need to have a national compulsory consultative platform where youth interact and share it as an affecting issue, that is one of the major things that is lacking and a late buy-in from local authority and policy makers.”
As a result of pollution of major lakes, not only humans are endangered but other aquatic species like fish as well.
Although efforts to get comment from the Environmental Management Agency on how measures put by the body are assisting in ensuring clean water gets to people’s taps were fruitless, it has become public secret that most of the water being consumed, especially in the capital, is contaminated.
“In Harare we have Lake Chivero and Darwendale Dam, which are highly polluted surface water bodies,” Upper Manyame Sub-Catchment Council compliance assistant Susan Nyarugwe was quoted as saying at the commemorations of the UN World Water Day earlier this year.
Not even boreholes have been spared as result of burst pipes which are spilling sewer into underground aquifers. This spells danger for the future of Zimbabwe, but what should be done?
“We need a national dialogue which can even be attended by the president himself because the nation is in a mess on issues of pollution, especially in the cities of Harare and Masvingo,” suggests Chadya.
While areas like Bulawayo are known for clean tap water, the resource is scarce, making it an offence to use it in other activities like gardening; this has prompted some youths to start gardens next to sewage streams in what could trigger a health time bomb.
Chitanda Mapiye, an intern at Aquaculture Zimbabwe Trust, said water takes a great position in issues of climate change, and thus society should pay more attention to it.
“People, especially in rural areas, their main source of livelihood is largely based on activities which are to do with water, so people should be really concerned about saving water,” said Mapiye.
The trust is engaged in activities like construction of weirs, dams to enhance community activities like orchards, gardens with extension services in areas like tree planting trainings and gulley reclamation, among other things.
“Mainly we are trying to shift from basing on relief aid as a non-governmental organisation to a position whereby we will be creating productive assets for the beneficiaries of the community,” said Mapiye.
On the other hand, Chadya laments the polluting of water bodies, which he said means that “the next generation is doomed” at a time the continental bloc African Union is lobbying for water security by 2050.
“This pushes us to say we need to volunteer more; it is not only practically people even volunteer to educate,” he said, also advocating for water harvesting and protection of water bodies.
Water is a primary resource for every development, including urbanisation, retailing, tourism or agriculture among others, making its availability prerequisite.