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ZELA trains communities on environmental child rights and the significance of EIAs

Story by Refias Sithole (Marange Development Trust)

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one of the important components in safeguarding the environmental child rights whenever a mining project is to be undertaken. It is not far from the truth that children and youths are more susceptible to the negative impacts derived from mining operations. Therefore, their views and aspirations must be included and incorporated in the development process.

Through its efforts of promoting environmental child rights in mining communities, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association on the 10th October 2019 conducted a workshop whose main focus was on environmental child rights in relation to EIA. The workshop was held at Hotsprings business center and was attended by communities from SOCNET, CCDT and Marange Development Trust.

The first presentation was undertaken by Josephine Chiname from ZELA who took us through the major concepts of environmental child rights and EIA which is derived from the Constitution of Zimbabwe. She explained to the community the relationship between environmental child rights and EIA and why it is important for children and youths to participate in the EIA process. She also stressed that parents must not leave their children at home when EIA consultative meetings and other community development meetings are conducted. This is because children and youths also  have the rights which need to respected as well. Basing on section 75 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe on the right to clean and safe environment, she attributed all the elements of this section highlighting the procedural elements which include the right to access information and the right to participate in those processes.

The main thrust of the workshop was to sensitise the communities the relationship between environmental child rights and EIA and why it is important for young children and youths to participate in EIA processes so that they will be able to speak for themselves on issues affecting them.

We also went through all the stages of EIA process and these include screening stage, scoping stage, EIA study, review stage, implementation stage and the monitoring stage. All these stages must be followed before an investor invest into the project. This also entails analysing the environmental, social, economic, and cultural impacts associated with the project and how it is going to impact communities and children in particular. During these stages the community must be consulted and participate actively in these processes and give out their contribution. After consultation the report is submitted to Environmental Management Agency for review and for them to give notices to other stakeholders for review. The review is done within sixty days and the community needs to follow up with the consultant and EMA  on the progress whether the document has been submitted, what has been omitted and confirmations on who was consulted.

The workshop also outlined the importance of EIA and the environmental child rights in relation to mining communities. It came out that young children and youth need to speak for themselves on what mostly affects them and must be aware of their rights. EIA also helps to mitigate the impacts of mining activities including clearly laying out provisions to monitor the project implementation.

 The community present responded well to the education given by ZELA and were able to outline all the environmental issues affecting children and youths in mining areas. These included dust pollution in schools like Chiadzwa and Banda primary school. This is mainly as a result of blasting from the mine and moving vehicles causing unending flues and coughing. There was also the issue of unprotected gullies pits and slime dams,poor waste management,children walking long distance to school and also children being traumatized by presence of heavy soldiers and police when doing their operations.

After the discussions and deliberations from the workshop, it became clear that there is need for parents to encourage their children to actively participate in EIA processes, teach children about their rights in the education curriculum because knowledge in itself is power. There is also the need to amplify the voice of children and lobby the government to create conducive platforms for  children to participate and access the necessary information needed.

Together we can advocate for child rights-based approach to environmental justice in the mining extractive!!!

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