Tanzania marks Environment Day in innovative style amid Covid-19

05Jun 2020
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Tanzania marks Environment Day in innovative style amid Covid-19

​​​​​​​EVERY year on June 5th, World Environment Day is celebrated to encourage worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment.

The day engages governments, businesses, celebrities, and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue. But, this year, the day is being celebrated in new and innovative styles due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Being part of the international community, Tanzanian government has issued a number of ways that will make people celebrate the global event safely against the novel coronavirus.

Mussa Azzan Zungu, the minister of State, Vice-President's Office (Union and Environment) said: “There will be no public gathering during this year’s World Environment Day due to the outbreak of the pandemic.”

Instead, he said that the day will only involve campaigns through the media, where educational programmes would be aired by local televisions and radio stations.

“Equally, the awareness campaign shall be carried out in social media, essay writing competitions, and music that educates people on the effects of Climate Change and environmental pollution, as well as aired speeches from government leaders,” the minister said.

He added that other activities will include campaign clarifications, and sensitizing the locals on ways to prevent environmental degradation as well as protecting themselves against the Covid-19 infections.

The idea is to ensure that people abide by the directives from the ministry of Health Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children on public gatherings as a preventive measure against the pandemic, he said.

This year's World Environment Day nationally would be marked in the Southern Region of Lindi with the theme: ‘Environmental protection for curbing impacts of Climate Change.’

According to the minister, every region will have to mark the World Environmental Day through different media outlets in their areas and social media in line with this year’s theme. This will also be in line with organizing essay competitions on ways to curb climate change, leaders’ speeches, sending different messages in mobile phones as well as virtual meetings that involve climate change experts.

“All these are to ensure that we avoid public gatherings,” Zungu said.

He however revealed that the nation is facing serious environmental challenges, mostly caused by unsustainable use of natural resources such as wantonly tree felling for fuel wood, timber and agriculture, which destroy water sources, and loss of biodiversity.

In turn, he said: “These unsustainable activities affect the country economically and socially.”

In addressing these challenges, the government in partnership with different stakeholders has been taking various measures such as public education on the importance of conserving environment for sustainable development, he said.

He described this year’s theme: 'Environmental protection for curbing impacts of Climate Change’ as relevant to Tanzania’s situation, saying that in recent years the country witnessed a number of environmental issues such as severe and frequent drought, and floods which led the nation into loss that led into destruction of infrastructures, settlements and deaths in some parts of the country.

Citing recent floods that hit Lindi Region, Zungu said that 16 villages were affected with the disaster and killing 19 people. According to him, 15,000 people were rendered homeless and without no food and some were affected with waterborne diseases.

This year’s theme also encourages the use of different traditional ways and friendly technologies to conserve the environment including the use of drip irrigation, alternative energy, animal husbandry by using improved varieties and planting natural trees in water sources to address impacts caused by climate change.

National Environment Management Council (NEMC), Director General Dr Samuel Gwamaka called upon Tanzanians to continue with environmental protection by planting trees, protecting water sources and engages in sustainable economic activities.

According to him, the public should continue planting trees, protecting water sources while also adhering to the rules and regulations so as to fight the impacts brought by climate change.

“Human being activities along restricted areas including forests have affected our environment a lot, so we should all together make sure that we avoid cutting trees and other destructive activities. Everyone has a role to play here, it should not be left to the government alone," he said.

Dr Gwamaka noted that the wave of massive pollution is also apparent on water sources and catchment areas, something which further needs the community themselves to be in the forefront to fight the activities.

He said that Tanzanians should use the celebrations to reflect on the importance of the environment for the benefit of the present and future generations, describing the global event as important event for Tanzanians and the international community as it reflects and take steps in the protection of the environment including planting of trees and other tasks.

According to him, climate change is the main cause of environmental degradation and the society should take bold steps to confront the situation.

The theme for World Environment Day 2020 is biodiversity – a concern that is both urgent and existential as per the United Nations official website. Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, the United States, and Australia to locust infestations across East Africa – and now, a global disease pandemic – demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life, in which they exist.

The theme focuses on ‘time for nature’ and providing the essential infrastructure that supports life on Earth and human development.

Every World Environment Day is hosted by a different country, in which official celebrations take place. This year's host is Colombia in partnership with Germany. This year, millions of people will be celebrating digitally due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.The day was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 on the first day of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, resulting from discussions on the integration of human interactions and the environment.

In 1974 the first World Environment Day was held with the theme "Only One Earth". Even though the World Environment Day celebration has been held annually since 1974, in 1987 the idea for rotating the center of these activities through selecting different host countries began.