Share environmental reports with stakeholders-LEAT

IN any country globally, individual governments if not working as a team have taken measures aimed at protecting the environment, because in turn it ensures healthy ecosystems and cleans our water, purifies y our air, maintains our soil, regulates the climate, recycles nutrients and provides us with food.

The list might be long without forgetting that environmental protection also provides us with raw materials and resources for medicines and other purposes.

In a nutshell, it is the foundation of all civilisation and sustain our economies. On this breathe; due to the pressures being exerted on the environment ranging from over exploitation to population growth, the biophysical environment is being degraded, sometimes permanently.

This has been recognized, and governments have begun placing restraints on activities that cause environmental degradation. Since the 1960s, environmental movements have created more awareness of the multiple environmental problems.

There is disagreement on the extent of the environmental impact of human activity, so protection measures are occasionally debated.

In light of this in Tanzania, for instance the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) was founded in 1994 and since then as a premier non- governmental organization focusing on environmental management and protection, it has made several achievements.

And working in tandem with the government as a stakeholder, it recently advised that environmental impact assessment reports and statements about projects be implemented in the community or for research are publicly presented or made accessible for scrutiny Making the suggestion, LEAT Coordinator of Projects Aclay Mwaifani at a press conference in the Lake Zone recently, observed that if they are not shared, sustaining them in the community would not be possible and in some cases, they might be viewed as polluting and destroying the environment clandestinely, which in reality is not the case.

He said LEAT as the environmental law organization in Tanzania it carries out legal policy research and has observed that policies and laws related to the environment should be amended to allow to citizens lead in their monitoring and accountability. In his remark that projects are necessary in the communities for development and environmental protection, however, they should adhere to environmental regulations.

He added: “We have visited and conducted training to communities in several districts in the Lake Zone areas such as Geita and Mara Regions, especially on educating the locals on how to protect and monitor the environment against degradation, and as well on how they should manage well their resource and be accountable.

“We found that the locals are not well informed and don’t have access to reports on the environment and investments in their respective areas. So, it means that if the surrounding communities have no knowledge and access to information and reports, hence, they are less likely to be their owners.” Citing an example, he noted that if one reads the environment impact assessment regulations of 2005 and their respective amendments in mining sector, one would observe that the regulations don’t vest a duty to any public/private officer to publicize or to make the environment impact assessment reports available to the people,” he added.

He said the law does not expressly vest a duty to any officer to make these reports public and accessible that’s why LEAT recommend that they should be shared.

“When these policies and laws were made the internet was not powerful and helpful as it is today. So maybe they should be amended to reflect contemporary situations because most of the people are now able to access them also through the internet,” he further said.

Equally, he suggested that the reports should be submitted to respective local authorities and uploaded to the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) website, and if possible in every website of the district council and companies in country.

In the course, civil society actors, academia and media should have access to them and make analysis or convene public hearings to discuss their contents. Mr Mwaifani further suggested that the public should have the right to act on them, adding: “If you read a report and find that the Minister has approved a project based on it and in your opinion you differ, you have a right to challenge it. “I will give you an example, when you read section 204 of the environmental impact Assessment Act it vests the jurisdiction to the environmental appeals tribunal to preside over any person’s complaints on the report.

So my concern is that our regulations should be practical and the environmental appeals tribunal should be functioning with everyone onboard as it was established.” LEAT believes that the law is an essential tool in the protection of the environment and for sound management of natural resources.

As of record, LEAT is the first public interest environmental law organization in Tanzania that carries out legal policy research, advocacy, and selected public interest litigation.

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