First community environment court launched
Walter Nyamukondiwa Mashonaland West Bureau
The first traditional environment court in the country has been launched in Hurungwe to help expedite the management of cases involving environment damage in communities.
The pilot court will help enforce environmental regulations and complement the criminal justice system in a bid to reduce incidents of fires, which have destroyed nearly 600 000ha of vegetation in Mashonaland West province.
Hurungwe District contributed about half of the runaway fires in 2022, which killed at least four people.
The province saw a 45 percent increase in the area damaged by veld fires compared to 2022.
Faced with rising fire incidents and damage, Government on its part has adopted yearly restriction periods during which people cannot start fires outside their homesteads or company premises.
This year, the fire restriction period has been pushed forward by 30 days from July 1 to November 31 in response to climate change induced variations.
Speaking at the launch, which was preceded by the provincial fire season launch and clean up, Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka said communities should work hard to conserve the environment.
“To our esteemed traditional leaders and other local leadership here present, let us protect our heritage for the future generations,” she said.
“It is my desire that we educate our communities on dangers of veld fires. Our traditional courts should prosecute veld fire offenders.”
She said infrastructure development for traditional leaders, dovetails with Government’s aspirations for the nation towards an upper middle income economy by 2030.
Speaking at the launch at his homestead where the court is located, Chief Chundu said the court would have a bias towards environmental cases.
“We thank stakeholders like Carbon Green Africa and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) who made it possible to have the pilot court here,” said Chief Chundu.
“It is my desire that we have these traditional fire courts in every chiefdom so that we protect the environment.”
He said the development had helped in pushing the devolution agenda through bringing justice closer to the people.
Chief Chundu said some cases could be dealt with by Chiefs on compensation basis to enhance peaceful coexistence in communities.
“Most people would end up going to the Civil Court in Karoi but some of the matter we can deal with them locally on a compensation basis,” he said.
The court seeks to modernise the traditional justice system where people used to be tried under a tree.
Carbon Green Africa representative Mr Rory Muil said the organisation seeks to promote environmental protection through the involvement of communities.
Hurungwe District faces increased pressure to protect the environment owing to high demand for wood fuel to cure tobacco.