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EIA Key in Developing Climate Proof Rural Settlements

BULAWAYO- Rural communities which bear the brunt of climate change impacts can benefit from applying principles of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), to develop climate proof settlements, an environmental expert has said.

In a research paper presented at the Advocatess4Earth, Annual Youth Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation, Kudzaiishe Seti, a Great Zimbabwe University climate change researcher said there was an oversight in rural settlement planning as it is rarely subject to an EIA as traditional leaders are not empowered to monitor and enforce.

“We need to engage our traditional leaders in this matter, so that if the headman is giving land they know they should follow the EIA process.

“In terms of housing development for towns there are clear cut regulations but when it comes to the rural settlement there is no clear cut guidelines some, they are references to the Rural District Act, or the Traditional Leaders Act.

“We also need to ensure that we address the issue of land tenure because lack of property rights, means that there is no motivation for proper planning,” said Seti.

In Zimbabwe, rural settlements were a creation of the colonial system’s Land Apportionment Act a segregationist measure which governed land allocation and acquisition prior to independence and set aside reserves for locals.

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Seti says this colonial legacy has not been addressed as rural settlement have not been planned since independence despite the urgent need to create settlements which adapt to climate change issues including droughts, floods and cyclones.

“In rural areas people are just given land without processes in giving land which ensures settlement can adapt to extreme climate change. It’s a piecemeal approach to settlement. Each law applies when government feels it should apply that law.

“This is in spite that 60 per cent of Zimbabweans live rural settlements under extreme poverty, are most affected by climate change due to reliance on natural rains and suffer the brunt of climate disasters

“So in settlement we need this process of the EIA for the whole village to assess the suitability of settlement, people should be settled where there is no incidence of floods or severe weather partners,” said Seti.

Tanyaradzwa Muzenda, Advocates4Earth acting campaigns and litigation coordinator said there was a policy gap emanating from overarching legislation which are not in sync with the Constitution.

“We have a challenge of conflicting laws and policies concerning natural resources management as a whole. We need to strengthen the roles of our traditional leaders, through laws which ensure that they have will have knowledge of the most suitable land use and plan according land zoning frameworks.

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“Since the EIA ensures protection of natural resources, land alienations, predicts futures changes and paves way for development which counters future challenges it can climate proof our rural communities,” said Muzenda.

EIA is an assessment of the possible impacts that a proposed project may have on the environment, consisting of the environmental, social and economic aspects, according to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

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