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Despite crackdown, Zimbabwe fuel protests continue | News





Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – Police in Zimbabwe have arrested a prominent protest leader, Evan Mawarire, as part of a widening security crackdown on protesters following violent clashes and incidences of looting.

Mawarire, an activist pastor, had called for a three-day work stayaway to protest a hike in fuel prices that citizens fear could push the country back to the brink of economic collapse.

Clashes between protestors and the security forces continued in Zimbabwe‘s second city Bulawayo on the third day of national shutdown demonstrations.

This is the longest running mass action in more than a decade since labour unions and opposition movements protested against the then President Robert Mugabe.

Mawarire was charged with inciting violence and attempted subversion of the state in 2016, when he called for a day-long shutdown against the policies of Mugabe government.

Mugabe was forced out in a de facto military coup in November 2017 that followed mass people’s protests.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeded him, but instead of a new era of freedom that the new leader had promised at his inauguration, he has allowed security clampdown on protesters.

Mawarire is yet to be charged but stands accused of inciting violence along with nearly 60 out of 200 protesters arrested in the past three days. The government blames civil society activists and the opposition of being responsible for the nationwide demonstrations.

At least five people have reportedly been killed as a result of the brutal crackdown, that has brought back the memory of the mass protests that ended President Mugabe’s four-decade rule.

Looting has ceased

In Bulawayo’s western suburbs, tension remained high as security forces continued their crackdown on suspected shop looters, protesters and citizens on Wednesday.

In the suburb of Sizinda, looting has ceased, but a standoff between the people and the army continues. Military trucks were seen patrolling the neighbourhood forcing residents to clear makeshift barricades and clean the streets with their bare hands.

After cleaning, the youths re-erected the stone barricades, but the armed troops returned and lined themselves up along the main highway.

Residents and some elderly people accused soldiers of beating civilians and conducting house raids.

Mafios Mumpuri, 69, a supermarket cleaner, told Al Jazeera he was accused of erecting stone and tyre barricades.

“The soldiers told me to remove the stones because I was one of those who put them on the street. After I pushed them off, they beat me with a belt and told me to go home.

“I am pained by what they did to me, how can we expect our country to be free if they make us do things like this,” he said.

Josphat Ngulube, an activist and independent politician, said he witnessed several beatings during security raids. Ngulube said he had taken at least four people to hospital in Sizinda.

He urged the government to listen to the people and end the violence.

“The demonstration has an impact because people are no longer listening to the government, they are not going to work because no one has confidence in the government.

“They need to engage with the people, they can’t kill us all,” he told Al Jazeera.

According to the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), over 100 people have been admitted to hospitals across the African nation, mostly with gunshot wounds.

Mumpuri alleges he was forced to remove stones barricading the streets and then beaten up by the army [Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]

‘Necessary for change’

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who narrowly lost a disputed election against Mnangagwa, visited the wounded in hospital in the capital, Harare. In a statement issued by the opposition MDC Alliance, the movement urged the Mnangagwa government to end the “siege” on citizens and recall the military.

“You do not have to do this and it does not have to be this way. Zimbabwe can be a prosperous nation, prosperity brings about peace, not guns and murder…

“Order the armed forces back to the barracks, allow peaceful protests and do not prevent a process on national dialogue,” the statement read.

Listing five demands, Chamisa appealed to the government to consider the far-reaching impact of its crackdown on citizen’s rights and urged it to work towards resolving the economic crisis.

On Wednesday, internet was partially restored in major urban centres after access was cut for more than 30 hours.

Adding to the woes of ordinary citizens, shops and fuel stations have remained closed during the stayway. As a result a black market has emerged with basic goods being sold at exorbitant prices.

A loaf of bread which normally sells for $1.40, is being sold for $4, while a litre of fuel costs $3, more than three times the normal price.

The hike of fuel prices by nearly 150 percent is the source of discontent as it has a significant negative impact on the broader state of the economy and the average citizen’s cost of living.

Despite the steep black market prices, shop looting and the state crackdown, many Zimbabweans blame the government for the crisis and still hope the stayaway action will not only find a way to fix the economy, but also result in a change in the rule of Mugabe’s increasingly unpopular successor.

In a bid to win back the nation’s support, Mnangagwa, who is currently in Russia, posted a message on his Twitter account despite the social media blockout.

“I understand the pain and frustration that many of you are feeling. Resolving Zimbabwe’s economic challenges is a monumental task, and while it may not always feel that way, we are moving in the right direction. We will get there,” he said.

Julia Banda is unconvinced and unmoved by the President’s Twitter post.

The 83-year-old, who lived through Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation struggle and Mugabe’s rule, told Al Jazeera that the protests are necessary for change.

Activist Ngulube has carried several wounded protesters to hospitals [Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]


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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic





TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed





On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon





When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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