‘Don’t be caught on the wrong side of the law’ – EMA

Ashton Mutyavaviri

FOLLOWING the recent celebrations to mark World Wetlands Day (WWD), the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has descended hard on instigators of environmental offences by announcing hefty fines or jail terms depending on the gravity of the offence.

The agency apprised members of the public on the Environmental Management Act (CAP 20:27) as read with its ancillary statutory instruments.

Failure to protect wetlands is an offence, which attracts a level 5 fine up to maximum level 10 (US$200 to US$700 or six months’ imprisonment, read the notice.

“Reclaiming and draining, drilling or making a tunnel, introducing any exotic animal or plant species, cultivating, destroying any natural vegetation is an offence. It is not allowed to remove or alter in any way the soil or surface of wetlands, land within 30 metres of the naturally defined banks of a public stream or land within 30 metres of the high flood level of any body of water conserved artificially constructed water storage work on a public stream, bed, banks or course oy any river or stream without a licence from the Agency,” highlighted the post.

Wetlands remain one of the country’s vital ecosystems that have traditionally provided a wide range of ecological goods and services.

Sustainable wetland management was a major outcome of the National Development Strategy (NDS 1), and thus wetland protection and restoration remain a key enabler in the achievement of the aspirations of the blueprint.

Sustainable wetland management remains a deliberate and unavoidable way in ensuring wetlands continue to deliver goods and services in both best quantity and quality, to sustain biodiversity and life on earth

Meanwhile, EMA also took the opportunity to advise the public that failing to put in place appropriate fire prevention measures was an offence, which attracted a fine of level 6 (US$300) or one-year imprisonment.

EMA added that deliberately causing a fire that would damage the environment, property or life was a wrongdoing, which courted a fine of level 8 (US$500) or one-year imprisonment,

Starting a fire outside the residential or commercial property during the fire restriction period attracts a fine of level 8 (US$500) or one-year imprisonment.

“Further, failure to clear invasive alien species is an offence, which cumulates a fine of Level 4 or an imprisonment sentence of six months or US$100,” EMA explained.

Invasive alien species are plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and which may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health.

The fines for the offences are as stipulated in the Statutory Instrument 14A of 2023, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) (Standard Scale of Fines) Notice, 2023.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) secretary general Mr Paul Zakariya urged Government through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development to enforce by-laws, which prohibit cultivation activities along stream banks and in wetlands.

“It would be important to have clear by-laws that prohibit planting in wetlands and along river valleys with the laws enforced religiously to make sure there are high levels of compliance, said Mr Zakariya.

 

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