NEMC: Local authorities vital in environment work

22Nov 2021
Maulid Mmbaga
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
NEMC: Local authorities vital in environment work

THE National Environment Management Council (NEMC) has directed local government authorities across the country to help in putting environmental degradation on hold by ensuring full compliance with the relevant pieces of legislation.

NEMC director general Dr Samuel Gwamaka.

NEMC director general Dr Samuel Gwamaka issued the order when addressing journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

He admitted that environmental degradation in Tanzania had grown into a serious challenge, warning that strong remedial measures awaited all those in any way associated with the problem.

“Environment committees at the village, district and regional levels all have a pivotal role to play in ensuring that water sources are protected and that no one engages in activities leading to the destruction of the environment,” said Dr Gwamaka.

He added: “Environmental degradation is rampant primarily because people fail or refuse to comply with environmental laws and policies by destroying water sources and natural vegetation. This calls concerted efforts by the larger public to ensure that our environment remains safe,” he said.

The NEMC head said President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s directive to regional leaders on the protection of water sources and resources ought to be implemented to ensure sustainable water security throughout the country.

“No one is unaware of the current situation but, even with the effects of climate change, much of the water shortage is due to destructive human activities. So, as a council, we have the responsibility of working alongside regional authorities in protect water resources,” Dr Gwamaka explained.

He said that many parts of the country are witnessing soil erosion and the development of canyons “largely because human activities have wreaked havoc on natural vegetation, with wetlands such as Ihefu Basin having suffered serious damage”.

He added that many wetlands have been invaded, with people developing settlements and operating agricultural activities, leading to a decline in the supply of groundwater storage.

According to the NEMC head, local governments and environmental committees from the regional, district, village, and sub-district levels have not been fulfilling their duties as fully as expected, and hence the ever-worsening environmental degradation.

“The is this tendency of people wanting to establish human settlements at random even in wetlands that ought to be spared in order to maintain water,” he said, adding: “The law clearly states that before implementing any construction project in an urban area, a strategic environmental impact assessment is mandatory, but is not observed in many cases.”

Dr Gwamaka noted many canyons have developed in Dar es Salaam following non-compliance with urban planning laws. He urged the Tanzanian public to “think carefully” about whatever they do and to subsequently refrain from activities that could damage the environment in general and water resources in particular.

He said the NEMC legally mandated to ensure that it collaborates with regional and district authorities in recommending or actually taking appropriate action against anyone found them not fulfilling their environmental responsibilities.

“It is not our intention as a council to remain silent bystanders while the country continues to experience water scarcity and pollution in various areas. We will not tolerate anyone out to undermine the country, and anyone found destroying the environment will be prosecuted,” warned Dr Gwamaka.

His remarks come only days after President Samia declared war on the invasion and destruction of water sources, at times inducing extensive diminution of the flow of water to rivers, inhibiting adequate water treatment for major urban centres.

Officiating at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Bugando Zonal Referral Hospital in Mwanza city on Thursday, the president directed regional and district commissioners to conduct a resource use hunt to clear obstacles to proper flow of water to rivers and protection of sources of springs and streams countrywide.

She said that demand for water for domestic use was more important than pumping water to irrigate farms or using wetlands for easy feeding of large herds of cattle.

Agriculture and pastoral activities come second, so those so destroying or otherwise threatening the survival of water sources must be prevented from perpetrating such disruption, she stated.