Monday, January 19, 2009

The greenest state in Africa

Zimbabwe must surely be one of the greenest states in the world. With the collapse of the economy, industry at a standstill, and the death of the agricultural sector, no doubt Zimbabwe has a carbon footprint proportional to that of a pygmy shrew.

There is a large power station on the outskirts of the industrial area of Harare - the main gate is locked with a single chain and a rusty padlock, and it’s quite likely that the key was lost some time ago. The last time we saw smoke coming out of the cooling towers was more than 8 years ago.

Our national electricity supply relies almost entirely on one poorly maintained hydro-electric dam and rumour has it that only one of the turbines works. We’ve had regular power cuts for years – with 8 hours of power cuts per day as the norm – although the situation has improved recently with the closure of the last factories on the outskirts of town.

We also have fuel shortages – paraffin, cooking gas, petrol and diesel have been intermittently available since 2000, and sometimes there is none available for months on end, as the government requisitions all fuel for the military or use on Ministerial farms. There is a story doing the rounds about how Air Zimbabwe ran out of fuel entirely, and on one plane the captain was forced to pass his hat around the passengers to plead for contributions so that the airline could afford to buy enough aviation fuel to get the plane back home to Harare.

When I first visited Zimbabwe, in 1992, there were dozens of airlines who provided long haul flights to Harare, from Germany, Switzerland, the UK, etc. Now there are only regional flights and a handful of airlines. The gleaming new airport, unveiled late in 2002 -- after a delay due to problems with the computerised air traffic control programme -- is now only used a few times a day, by small, short haul aircraft from Kenya, South Africa, and Ethiopia.

We probably recycle more than any other nation in Africa. Used yoghurt pots, holey plastic bags, rubber bands, glass bottles are all worth far more than money. Nothing gets thrown out – we have collections of bits of wire, screws, bolts, bicycle tires in the garden shed, and used envelopes in our desk drawers. Old clothes get passed on to people who need it, machines are endlessly repaired and ancient cars chug along the road, held together by bits of string and superglue. If expat friends leave the country, people hover round to gather up discarded items – broken lawnmowers, dog-eared novels, kitchen gadgets and half-used cosmetics are particularly sought after.

Apart from the super-rich elite, we are becoming a nation of lean, green recyclers. Or, as we say in the UK, first class scroungers. Al Gore should be proud.

5 comments:

Christine said...
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Christine said...

Can you write more about what Zimbabwe was like when you first came there? And what made you decide to settle there? Only within the boundaries of your anonymity, of course.. Greetings from Singapore

Fambai Zvakanaka said...

Hi Christine,

Thanks for your request! I will gladly write about my first trip to Zim and how I ended up here. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

best wishes

Fambai.

technofreak said...
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Mike said...
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