Youth Hub to name and shame environmental pollutants: Focus on citizen advocacy

Youth Hub, a local youth organization which  advocates  for a  clean  planetary  society, among other things, says it will soon begin to name  and shame environmental pollutants in its effort to halt wanton pollution which  has reached  dangerous levels in  towns  and cities in  this country.

Youth hiking and environmental conscious visit at Mulanje Mountain
Youth Hub members

Patron of the organization, Humphreys Kapito, disclosed this when the organization had a two day hiking and environmental conscious visit at Mulanje Mountain from Friday, August 23 to Sunday August 25.

In an interview with Nyasa Times at Lichenya hut situated at 2002 meters above sea level, on top of Mulanje Mountain, Kapito said Youth Hub is frustrated at how City Councils are neglecting whole neighborhoods within cities to be spoiled with dirt and bad smell as a result of fumes and effusion into rivers from industrial chemicals.

“It is a sad situation that pollution has reached shameful levels to the extent of turning some townships into mini-waste areas. The major culprits are companies from industrial sites such as Makata, Chirimba and Maoni in Blantyre and Kanengo in Lilongwe.

“For example, there is a particularly putrid smell at Kameza stream close to Chileka round about, apparently as a result of some industrial processes at Chirimba Industrial site. The sad thing is that it appears people living in the area have come to accept the smell as normal, which is unacceptable,” said Kapito.

He said this is exactly what Youth Hub would like to put to a stop.

Added Kapito: “There is nothing acceptable about people living in squalid and smelling conditions in the name of industrialization.  In as much as we need industries to develop economically, there ought to be a balance between growth and conserving the environment.  Investors must therefore ensure that communities within their catchment areas are clean, and that they are not impacted negatively as a result of their productions. Otherwise they have no business to exist in this country.”

“It is in that vein that as Youth Hub we will soon begin to mobilize communities within the affected areas, starting with Machinjiri, Chirimba, Ndirande, Zingwangwa Manase and Kubaluti in Blantyre with the aim of sensitizing people about the dangers of pollution. We want to instill holy anger in communities so that they become powerful stakeholders in the process of shaping an ideal environment in which they live in and one they would be happy to bequeath to the next generation.”

Kapito said his organization has decided to take this approach because it is disappointed with how duty bearers, particularly city councils are handling the situation of environmental pollution.

He says Youth Hub is conducting its own investigation to get to the bottom of allegation of corruption where environmental pollutants are paying huge sums of money to officers at City Councils to avoid facing the law. He said Youth Hub will focus on citizen advocacy so that the offenders are held to account by the people themselves.

“We will continue engaging the city councils because they are still important stakeholders in as far as solving the problem of environmental pollution in the city is concerned, but we want to invest more in citizen advocacy so that the real victims of pollution are brought on board in the our quest to solve  the problem.

“We know the offenders and we will meet them; we will make our position known to them and we will ask them to do their part. If they refuse to play ball we will engage an extra gear even if it means invading their premises and blocking production,” Kapito enthused.

On Mulanje mountain, the Youth Hub Patron said the organization is doing a comprehensive profiling of the level of environmental degradation currently taking place within the Mulanje Moutain ecosystem in order to cultivate its niche within the momentous process of environmental conservation for the mountain, and will soon come up with an action plan of what to do within the short, medium to long term.

“Mulanje Mountain is a feature of staggering beauty, which can be a relentless treasure trove of ecotourism for this country, and the least we can do as a people is to take good care of it. It is thus sad to note that this beautiful mountain is currently jinxed with a toxic mixture of lack of capacity at the forestry department tasked with managing the forests in the mountain; a growing population which relies on the mountain for its livelihood and high levels of ignorance among surrounding communities on how to relate and sustainably manage the mountain ecosystem, which has led to uninhibited deforestation,” he said.

 

Kapito however singled out and thanked the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT) as an organization which has tirelessly worked to define and promote the beauty of Mulanje Mountain, not only to the surrounding communities but also to the rest of the world.  In his presentation at the Lichenya hut, Communication Officer for the Trust, Kondwani Chamwala said Mulanje Mountain is the highest in southern Africa and covers a total area of 640 square kilometers.

He said the mountain is a biodiversity hotspot   and home to 250-500 species of plants and animals some which are endemic to the mountain such as Mulanje Cedar ( widdringtonia Whytei) and Nanzikambia Mulanjesis (a special type of chameleon). Chamwala said Mulanje cedar takes 75 to 100 years to reach maturity growth but added that the trees have so far been vandalized to extinction by communities.

“In 2014, the mountain had over 63,000 Mulanje cedar trees but by 2018 the headcount was at just seven trees only, which underlines the rate at which deforestation is taking place at this mountain,” said Chamwala, adding that his organization is investing in efforts to arrest deforestation by among other things engaging communities in the planting and selling of Mulanje cedar seedlings.

“We distribute seeds to people and thereafter buy seedlings from them as a way of empowering communities economically. We also pay them to create firebreaks around the mountain and so far we have over 6000 kilometers of firebreaks,” he said.

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