By Advocates4Earth | Press Release | 13 February 2020
As Binga Floods leaves families stranded, it’s an environmental justice and human rights issue
Advocates4Earth sites environmental justice and human rights on Binga Floods
Binga District is located in the Matabeleland North province of Zimbabwe, on the banks of the Zambezi River. The Zambezi makes up the Victoria Falls and Kariba Dam and forms a border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
On the weekend of the 8th and 9th February 2020, flash floods affected the district, leaving a reported 21 families stranded. The floods have affected hundreds of Binga residents resulting in loss of property, life and with people reportedly stranded in trees without food.
Advocates4Earth has since inception been calling for a better capacitated Civil Protection Department as part of measures to protect the human and environmental rights of vulnerable communities in the time of climate change and economic hardships.
In February 2019, exactly 12 months before the current Binga floods, environmental organisations such as Advocates4Earth (Then known as People and Earth Solidarity Law Network) and ZELA called upon the government of Zimbabwe to be better prepared for disaster management in the aftermath of the Battlefields Mines disaster which was also caused by flash floods.
Advocates4Earth even went further to call for a commission of inquiry on disasters.
“We have been calling for adequate disaster management in Zimbabwe especially after the Battlefields and Cyclone Idai flood disasters in early 2019. A natural hazard shouldn’t automatically lead to the differing of communities,” remarked Lenin Chisaira, an environmental lawyer and the director of Advocates4Earth.
“Every person has the right to an environment that is not harmful to health, as well as the right to health itself. These rights are provided in the Constitution and in international treaties. Binga is a special case for us because in the past and with various organisations, I worked on the amendments of the Binga Rural District Council Environmental By-Laws” he added.
Failure to deal with floods and other natural hazards is a human rights and environmental justice issue. Some of the challenges being faced in Bunga include poor roads, limited telecommunications coverage and even medical and power facilities. These issues occur in a district which is practically on the banks of the water system that provide the most hydroelectric power for Zimbabwe and neighbouring States.
There are, however, a number of ways to deal with these disasters, which we call upon the government to genuinely embrace and fully implement: these range from capacitating the civil protection departments, quicker responses, having viable early warning systems, allowing better access to environmental and weather information for communities, civil society, mainstream and alternative media among other measures.