nvironmental issues – be it cleanliness in residential and commercial areas, pollution, poor sanitation, tree-felling or forest conservation – are still being routinely neglected despite potentially dire consequences. The sad reality is that we are nowhere near passing on a better and sustainable environment to future generations.
Sobering facts about the state of the environment abound. About 92,000 hectares of forest are lost each year through forest fires and tree cutting. It is estimated that nearly 80 per cent of the population still depends on charcoal and firewood as a major source of energy for cooking.
But there are no tree plantations created specifically for the charcoal market. This puts about 65 per cent of Tanzania at risk of drought if we do nothing to end the wanton destruction.
We urgently need to reduce dependency on charcoal and firewood as a source of energy in both rural and urban areas. We can do so only by introducing alternative sources of energy such as natural gas and solar power.
It is encouraging to note that domestic used of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) has increased markedly in recent years, particularly in urban areas. Reducing tax on gas cookers and LPG itself could go a long way in encouraging even more people to abandon charcoal and firewood.
Raising awareness on preserving the environment will be necessary if the people are to become sensitive to environmental risks. Equipping them with alternative sources of income is also crucial.
The people should be encouraged to take up sustainable environmental projects such as eco-villages and a clean development mechanism aimed at creating environment-friendly villages by planting trees, protecting water sources and reducing carbon emissions.
We all have a crucial role to play ensuring that we actually live in habitable villages, towns and cities.
CHILDREN DESERVE BETTER
As Tanzania joins the rest of the world today in marking International Day of the African Child, the wellbeing of our young ones is far from being guaranteed. The large numbers of children living on the streets in towns, and those condemned to a life of hunger and squalor in the rural areas are enough proof that minors continue to bear the brunt of poverty, HIV/Aids and effects of broken families.
But this is just a tip of the iceberg. Children’s rights are still routinely violated with impunity. Child labour is still rampant in Tanzania, with the young ones, who are supposed to be in school, working in dangerous environments for a pittance.
Girls are still being married off at an early age by their greedy parents and guardians. This denies them an education, and condemns them to a life of bondage and brutality. We may be in the 21st century, but this abuse of children is considered perfectly normal in some backward communities.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for our children. Child mortality has declined sharply in recent decades, while primary school enrolment has risen exponentially, However, a lot still needs to be done to improve the welfare of children in this country.