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    Thursday, March 12, 2015

    Climate Change Strategy Focuses On Five Priority Areas

    Climate Change Strategy Focuses On Five Priority Areas

    Zanzibar — Sea erosion plus other environmental hazards pose a threat to small islands such as Zanzibar, according to the UN Environmental Programme. (Photo by Issa Yussuf)

    CLIMATE change is changing the world's environment drastically affecting livelihood and the health of the people.

    Environmentalists, researchers and scientists warn that small islands such as Zanzibar are more vulnerable and need to do more to curb hazards of changing climate.

    Although the 2014 theme is entitled 'Think, Eat, Save', stressing the importance of reducing food footprint and decreasing food waste, the UN General Assembly has also declared this year's World Environment Day (WED) 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) most vulnerable to impacts of climate change.

    June 5th of every year is WED and the UN says that it is important to look at SIDS, with the goal of 'raising awareness of their unique development challenges and successes regarding a range of environmental problems such as climate change, waste management, unsustainable consumption, degradation of natural resources and extreme natural disasters'.

    The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) says climate change is a major challenge for SIDS due to their small size and isolation. SIDS are more vulnerable to natural and environmental disasters and the rise of sea-level.

    The islands of Trinidad & Tobago and Samoa are given as examples of small islands facing problems of climate change, waste management, unsustainable consumption, degradation of natural resources and extreme natural disasters in the midst of overpopulation.

    Some researchers have indicated that most small islands, including Zanzibar, will have severe problems in the near future, probably in the next 30 to 100 years, if measures to curb climate change are not real.

    There have been 'jokes' in both the House of Representatives and the Union Parliament that Zanzibar may vanish in the next 50 years due to rising sea level.

    Presenting the 2014/2015 budget estimates for her Ministry of State (First Vice- President's Office), Ms Fatma Abdulhabib Fereji made it clear that Zanzibar is already witnessing serious problems caused by climate change.

    "We need to act now. Shortage of water for domestic use, erosion at coastal areas due to sea rise, unreliable rain patterns for farming, and increasing temperature are some of the problems that Zanzibar faces," said Fereji.

    She said further human activities like cutting down trees, illegal sand and rocks digging and environment pollution are the challenges that propel climate change. The minister called for behaviour change in the use of natural resources.

    "End Zanzibari has a great role in minimizing the impact of climate change," she stressed. Studies by the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) and the Department of Environment have identified more than 140 areas in the coastal areas destroyed by sea erosion.

    A recent study by a Danish agency, DHI, and SAMAKI consultants of Tanzania identified 101 threats to the coastal areas which include habitat over exploitation, illegal fishing and over-fishing.

    Other threats are poverty and lack of education among fishermen, lack of alternative livelihood options, land use practices in catchments causing pollution and sedimentation downstream, pollution from domestic and industrial solid and liquid wastes and conflicts over access to resources.

    President Ali Mohamed Shein has been emphasizing on collective responsibility in environment conservation, adaptation, and mitigation of climate change. "Many coastal areas today show signs of severe degradation. Let's work to conserve our land," he said.

    The Director of Environment Mr Sheha Mjaja said his office has been working hard to ensure that Zanzibar is safe from the vagaries of climate change.

    He said that in 2009 the Department of Environment through MACEMP project managed to coordinate the study on the 'Status of Zanzibar Coastal Resources' which led to the development of 'Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Strategy and Action Plan'.

    The strategy recognizes that Zanzibar coastal resources are expected to make a significant contribution to the future of the country although they are under threat through over exploitation.

    In May 2009 the First Vice-President's Office through support from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) of UK commissioned the study on the 'Economics of Climate Change in Zanzibar'.

    The study assessed the potential impacts of climate change on the islands, the potential adaptation options to address these impacts and the opportunities for low carbon development.

    The study revealed that Zanzibar's economy is dependent on the climate and a large proportion of Gross Domestic Product are associated with climate activities.

    "The findings of the study provided basic information during the development of Zanzibar Climate Change Strategy and in June 2013, the government launched its new Environmental Policy," Mjaja said.

    Specific objectives of the policy are to prevent and control pollution and degradation of terrestrial, air, marine and other aquatic environment and to integrate environmental concerns into development policies, plans and projects.

    The development of Zanzibar Climate Change Strategy of 2014, has also been approved by the cabinet with five key priority themes for action.

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