Sunday, April 12, 2015

National Assembly: How a Foolish Majority Denied Cameroonians Water

Fai Cassian Ndi
The 2015 World Water Day will be celebrated on April 21 amidst water scarcity in Cameroon.  The situation in cities like Yaounde, Bamenda, Maroua and Douala is very pathetic given the growing population. In Bamenda for example, water is being ration by the Army Rescue Unit.
Indicators are rife at that access to potable water has reached crisis level. In some localities, the population goes for weeks and even months without potable water. If water as they say is life, Cameroon may perhaps eventually be lifeless. This is so due to the scarcity of water. Since November 2013, access to potable water has remained a major problem. This wobbly situation is having diversified interpretations. Environmentalists are of the opinion that the scarcity of water has been orchestrated by the changing climate while some development experts on the other hand say it is due to human activities around water catchments. Yet traditionalists on their part are convinced that the gods are angry. It is common to see a traditional ruler pouring libation at a stream calling on the gods to bring back water. The situation is such that taps regularly run dry; some small springs have dried off while others have lost their sizes. Water has been tagged as a rare commodity given that to access to potable water is as complicated as a journey to Mars. Access to water is a major predicament and gradually it has reached a crisis level.
To cut the story short, indicators are rife that more than 92% of the water catchments are drying off due to human activities. Some streams have even dried off completely. It is common to see children digging around water catchments to find water.  Uncertainty looms large as it is feared that this could lead to an outbreak of cholera or increasing water borne diseases. Of late, it has been observed that the number of typhoid cases in major cities in the country have increased geometrically. The outbreak of cholera in the North part of Cameroon was even linked to the scary water situation. In rural areas, families and cattle scramble for water in the same stream while farmers on the other hand have been complaining that weather patterns have changed and it is resulting to poor crop yields. Yet the same farmers hardly keep to the instructions of avoiding “slatch and burnt” commonly known as “ankara” in their farms. Cattle grazers on the other hand constantly set the small patches of forest and bushes around watersheds, catchments and wetlands on fire to get fresh grass for their cattle.

How Heartless CPDM MPs Denied Cameroonians Water
Hon. Awudu Mbaya, Questor at the National Assembly and Executive President of Pan African Parliamentarians Network on Climate Change has broken records at the National Assembly of Cameroon. Of late, he entered into record as the first ever Member of Parliament whose PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BILL was rated admissible by the Chairman’s conference. But since in Cameroon, MPs care little about those who elect them, the foolish majority of the CPDM decided to set the bill aside.
Hon. Lifaka, one of the Vice Presidents and CPDM argued that Hon. Awudu did not consult other political parties and that they (Parliamentarians) will have to wait for the Paris Conference on Climate Change to see whether the MPs will add or subtract some sections of the bill. This decision by the foolish majority in Cameroon Parliament has sparked widespread criticisms from the media and civil society. Here below is the Proposed Bill by Hon. Awudu Mbaya to protect water catchments, watersheds and wetlands in Cameroon.
To lay down Rules Governing the Protection and Preservation of Water Catchment Areas, Watersheds and Wetlands in Cameroon
Presented by
Hon. AWUDU MBAYA Cyprian
Members of the SDF Parliamentary Group

                         EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
Private Members’ Bill No. 068.../PJL/AN to lay down Rules Governing the Protection and Preservation of Water Catchment Areas, Watersheds, and Wetlands in Cameroon.

Water catchment areas, watersheds and wetlands are an important source of life and are undeniably endowed with natural resources. They contribute to the health and the general wellbeing of Cameroonians throughout the national territory.
In fact, Cameroon's economy partially relies on biodiversity for improved productivity. Such is true for electrical energy, agriculture, industry, manufacturing products (textiles, cosmetics), and the transportation of people and goods by sea. Considering the ongoing population growth in the world in general and Cameroon in particular and the obsolescence of current legislation, the protection and preservation of the earth’s surface is of paramount importance.
The objective of this Private Members’ bill is threefold:
-       to enhance the protection and preservation of water catchment areas, watersheds, and wetlands;
-       to reaffirm the importance of the said natural resources;
-       to encourage individuals, communities, businesses, NGOs, other organizations and countries to become more involved in such activities and to preserve the said areas.
In addition, pollution and the destruction of such natural resources that are vital to human and animal life have a significant impact on climate change. In this respect, a specific and strict regulation must be implemented by all stakeholders.
This Private Members’ bill which has five chapters of 14 sections, seeks to establish a regime of water catchment areas, watersheds and wetlands through the general provisions (Sections 1-2); destructive and harmful activities to such areas (Sections 3-5); the supervisory authority (Sections 6-7); management and exploitation (Sections 8-9, obligations and penalties (Sections 10 - 13) and final provisions (Section 14).          
            The adoption of this bill by the Nation’s Representatives shall give Cameroonians access to water on a permanent basis and pave the way for a sustainable progress in their development endeavour.
Such is the purport of this Private Members’ Bill tabled before Parliament for consideration.

           Regime of wetlands
SECTION 1:- (1) The purport of this law is to lay down rules governing the protection, preservation and management of water catchment areas, watersheds and wetlands in Cameroon.
                       (2) This law shall apply in all water catchment areas, watersheds and wetlands in Cameroon.
                           (3) Such areas and wetlands shall be part of the national heritage.
SECTION 2:- The following definitions shall apply within the context of this law and its enabling instruments:
-       Catchment area:  area where water is collected
-       Wetlands: area soaked by water
-       Swamp: uncultivated wetland where marsh extends to
-       Marsh: nape of standing water covering land partially invaded by vegetation
-       Pond: less extensive body of water not as deep as a lake
-       Backwater: the dead arm of a       river
-       Salt marsh: pool dug near the coast to extract salt from seawater by evaporation (saliva)
-       Basin: territory watered by a river and its tributaries

                                        CHAPTER II


SECTION 3:- Within the framework of this Law, the following shall be considered destructive or harmful activities:
-        illegal or illicit exploitation of areas referred to in this Private Members’ bill;
-       abusive and uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources, fishes and animals found in the said areas;
-       spoliation;
-       dumping of wastes and toxic products.

SECTION 4:- Notwithstanding the cases referred to under Section 3 above, any other activity prejudicial to wetlands and watersheds shall be prohibited.
ARTICLE 5:- The use of heavy industrial equipment that can cause damage to property and the environment in areas governed by this law shall also be prohibited.

                                      CHAPTER III
                       THE SUPERVISORY AUTHORITY

 SECTION 6:- (1) The Minister of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development shall determine the objectives of the State relating to the protection and preservation of areas and wetlands governed by this Law.
                         (2) He may also determine the said objectives together with other ministries whose assistance is deemed necessary.  
SECTION 7:- Catchment areas and watersheds, contours, boundaries and geographical areas of the wetlands shall be set and approved by the authority referred to under Section 6 (1) above.

                                            CHAPTER IV
SECTION 8:- (1) The management of water catchment areas, watersheds and wetlands throughout the national territory shall be the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development.
                            (2) The powers defined under sub Section 1 above may be delegated within the framework of decentralization.
                             (3) The modalities for the delegation of powers referred to under sub Section 2 above shall be defined by regulation.
SECTION 9:- (1) The exploitation of catchment areas, watersheds and wetlands shall devolve on public and private corporations on the one hand and economic operators who find it beneficial on the other hand.
                          (2) Notwithstanding the regime and nature of exploitation, the latter shall be subject to the payment of an annual fee of 2.5% to 5% in accordance with the turnover declared.

                                    CHAPTER V
SECTION 10:- (1) Within the framework of this law, operators in catchment areas, watersheds and wetlands must respect substantive obligations.         
                            (2)  The obligations referred to in sub Section 1 above shall be respected through the following public utility activities:
a) planting of trees;
b) irrigating wet surfaces;
c) draining marshy areas,
d) protecting and preserving rare species found in such areas;
e) respecting the provisions of Sections 3, 4 and 5 herein above.

SECTION 11:- Offences committed by managers and operators in catchment areas, watersheds and wetlands shall be liable to penalties whose amount shall be fixed by regulation.
SECTION 12:- Notwithstanding the penalties referred to under Section 11 above, criminal charges may be brought against the offenders.
SECTION 13:- (1) The amounts fixed as penalties for offences likely to cause prejudice to the State, beneficiaries, managers and operators of water catchment areas, watersheds and wetlands shall depend on their degree of seriousness.
                            (2) The amounts referred to under sub Section 1 above shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of Sections 3, 4 and 5 of this Law as follows:
           a) 25 000 (twenty five thousand) francs CFA per day for minor offences with effect from the day the offence was reported;
           b) 50.000 (fifty thousand francs) CFA per day for any misdemeanour with effect from the day such misdemeanour was reported;
           c) 500 000 (five hundred thousand francs) CFA per day with effect from the day all felonies resulting from collusion are reported.

                                  CHAPTER VI
                          FINAL PROVISIONS
SECTION 14:- This law shall be registered, published according to the procedure of urgency and inserted in the Official Gazette in English and French.

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)

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