ON World Environment Day, a clear message resonated across the globe: we must heal the planet, we must start now and we must work together because everyone has a role to play in reviving the world’s ailing ecosystems.
The UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) flagship environmental event in 2021 was both a celebration of the planet and a rallying call for action, as it also marked the formal launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which aims to mobilize hundreds of millions of people to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems.
In Zanzibar there were various activities to send the message across the country about the importance of protecting the environment. Students, hoteliers, villagers, urban dwellers, and different groups engaged in environment were busy on the day. The activities included tree planting, rewilding of gardens, and cleaning up of beaches.
“We have been impressed with peoples’ response this year. We actually witnessed more people awake about environment protection compare with past years. Even schools and different NGOs organized activities to mark the World Environment Day (WED),” the Director of the Department of Environment in Zanzibar, Ms Farhat Ali Mbarouk said.
She observed further that “Members of the public have been very conscious on Environmental protection, publicity on World Environment was good, and also since the Blue economy is our government top agenda, environment goes hand in hand with blue economy.”
According to Ms Mbarouk, this year’s timetable for environment Day included cleaning of a botanical garden at Migombani and planting of trees, promoting manufacturing of environment friendly cooking stoves in Matemwe village, and planting of mangrove trees in Kibele area.
Planting of trees in Nungwi village, Kisakasaka, before beach cleaning at Jambiani, before young people met at Marumaru Hotel to discuss their role in environment conservation & climate change, followed by the cleaning and planning of trees at Kibele area officiated by the First Vice President.
“We had similar activities also in Pemba Island were many trees were planted, public awareness carried out and cleaning exercises were done in various areas. Ms Khadija Khamis Rajabu- Permanent Secretary (PS) - First Vice President Office said that more than fifty thousand trees were planted in Unguja and Pemba and also at least five beaches cleaned.
Ms Rajabu Some NGOs were awarded for keeping their environment safe. For example ZAVECO planted mangrove trees on approximately 13 hectares, ‘Uvivu si Mtaji” of Kibele also planted trees, and JESAUMA of Kisiwa-Panza in Pemba planted trees and maintain trees on 200 hectares were all awarded for taking efforts in environment conservation.
The Sate Minister- First Vice President Dr Saada Mkuya Salum said the theme for 2021 UN-environment is “Ecosystem Restoration” while Zanzibar’s this year theme is “Conserve environment and restore ecosystem to achieve the blue economy.”
She said Zanzibar decided to have its own theme to increase public awareness on the importance of environment protection as the country focus on blue economy for its future social and economic development as set by the 8th phase government.
“Like in many countries across the globe, Zanzibar is also seriously facing environment degradation which include cutting down of trees and clearance of forests, prohibited method of fishing, unplanned housing (include at water sources), illegal sand quarrying, and improper disposal of both solid and liquid wastes,” the Minister said without releasing statistics.
Globally it said that for too long, humans have been exploiting and destroying the planet’s ecosystems. Every three seconds, the world loses enough forest to cover a football pitch and over the last century, we have destroyed half of the wetlands. As much as 50 per cent of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost and up to 90 per cent of coral reefs could be lost by 2050.
In his brief speech at the planting of trees in Kibele, which was among activities to mark the Day, Mr Othman Masoud Othman- First Vice President said that personally, he is a committed environmentalist. “As I have managed to plant 800 clove trees in five years and also planted other types of trees.”
Othman urged the Zanzibaris to spare no effort in protecting environment directing leaders at the grassroots level to work with the community in each Shehia (lowest administrative level) to develop sustainable strategies to restore all areas affected by degradation so that can be used again economically.
“For example traders or member of the business community should start using environmentally degraded areas as opportunities to establish investment projects to provide economic and social benefits,” he said. The First Vice President further directed that every citizen and stakeholder should increase efforts to protect and preserve tourists’ attraction sites so that our tourism industry continues to grow.
“Stop cutting down and burning trees, and forests, and instead you should increase planting of trees, especially fruit trees, and preserve existing trees and forests; reduce use of wood and charcoal by using standard and alternative stoves as well as the use of gas (LPG); and avoid unplanned activities especially construction of houses in areas of water sources, and agriculture,” he said.
Mr Othman also urged to stop inappropriate waste disposal practices in homes, hotels, and places of business, and that each person has a role to play in promoting hygiene, prevent illegal extraction of sand and stones. Students such as Ibrahim Hassan, standard V, and Khadija Juma Standard IV shared their happiness with colleagues after they planted trees, and asked their teachers and parents to organize tree planting and environment cleaning regularly.
Hassan said “He was happy to learn and practice environment conservation. Planting trees is good and wells as cleaning school surroundings. All children should develop the interest to preserve environment.”
Environmentalists say that the World Environment Day was developed as a platform to raise awareness on the problems facing the environment such as air pollution, plastic pollution, illegal wildlife trade, sustainable consumption, sea-level increase, and food security, among others. Furthermore, WED helps drive change in consumption patterns and in national and international environmental policy.