Environmental protection still thorny issue
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AS the world celebrates the World Environmental Day (WED), awareness and action for the protection of environment still remains a thorny problem in Tanzania. Our Correspondent CASMIR NDAMBALILO of MAELEZO explains how environment can sustain our prosperity and wellbeing.

OVER the years the World Environment Day (WED) has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in more than 100 countries. It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.

WED has been a flagship campaign for raising awareness on emerging environmental issues from marine pollution and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime.

‘Connecting People to Nature’, which is the theme for this year implores us to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and its importance, and to take forward the call to protect the Earth that we share. It also invites us to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it.

WED challenges us to find fun and exciting ways to experience and cherish this vital relationship. Many rural people around the world spend every working day ‘connected to nature’ and appreciate full well their dependence on natural water supplies and how nature provides their livelihoods in the form of fertile soil.

They are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened, whether by pollution, climate change or overexploitation. For example, the world’s oceans, forests and soils act as vast stores for greenhouse gases such as carbondioxide and methane; farmers and fisher-folk harness nature on land and under water to provide us with food; scientists develop medicines using genetic material drawn from the millions of species that make up the earth’s astounding biological diversity.

In Tanzania, perhaps one of the most measures to remember since the country got its independence in connection with this year’s World Environmental Day when the Fifth Phase Government President John Magufuli cancelled last year Independence Day celebrations for a national cleanup drive.

In a statement read by the then State House Chief Secretary Ombeni Sefue, the President said funds meant for Uhuru celebrations would instead be used for a major clean-up campaign aimed at stemming the spread of cholera outbreak, which health officials said had infected nearly 10,000 people and killed 150.

On that day, dozens of fishermen joined the president in the cleaning up drive at the Indian shore where Dr Magufuli and the first lady, Janeth Magufuli shoveled leaves and plastic rubbish close to a fish market near the Presidential Palace. “It’s so shameful that we are spending huge amount of money to celebrate 54 years of self-rule while our people are dying of cholera. Let us work together to keep our country, cities, homes and workplaces clean, safe and healthy,” he said.

The President’s statement was echoed by Government leaders, Political leaders, Non Governmental Organization (NGOs), Religious leaders, Private institutions leaders as well as individuals around the country to keep cities, homes and workplace clean.

Speaking at the Press Conference ahead of this year’s World Environmental Day (WED), Environment Minister in the Vice-President’s Office, January Makamba said Tanzania loses around 2500 acres of forests every day with an estimated 61 percent of the country now facing a real threat of desertification, the government of Tanzania has warned.

According to the minister, the massive scale of destruction to the country’s environment means that many sources of water, mostly in rain-forests, are being decimated. He said that one of the biggest causes of deforestation is the widespread use of charcoal for cooking food.

As a result of this situation, water supply for Tanzanians is being constrained even when we build infrastructure for the supply of water, he added. Makamba further explained that charcoal is a big business in Tanzania and continues to flourish. More than 90 percent of all families in the countryside either use firewood or charcoal as a source of energy.

Rural electrification has gathered pace, but electricity cannot solve the people’s energy needs due to the price factor. Natural gas has also been discovered in the country and has been used in power generation since 2014, but has not provided a solution for cooking energy. The minister said this year’s World Environment Day will be commemorated at the national level in Butiama village, Mara region - birthplace of the late Father of the Nation Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere - to honour his legacy towards environment conservation.

The day will be marked by tree-planting campaigns across the country and public workshops to discuss the huge challenge facing the nation in terms of deforestation and environmental pollution. National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) of Tanzania last week ordered all plastic bag manufacturers in the country to strategically establish recycling plants to curb environmental degradation. The order comes as the country faces critical challenges due to indiscriminate litter of the environment by plastic materials, in particular.

According to NEMC, for some years, the government has been fighting environmental pollution across the country, with production and use of plastic bags proving to be among the toughest issues to control.

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