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Background to LEAP
The Environmental Management Agency has since 2003 been embarking on training activities aimed at capacitating local authorities on the production of Local Environmental Action Plans. The process involves all relevant key stakeholders, NGOs, government institutions, business people, CBOs, councilors and local authorities coming together and identifying the environmental challenges they face in their communities and work together to solve them.The concept of sustainable development evolved in the early 1980s worldwide and it saw the development of the National Conservation Strategy. The major objective of this strategy was to ensure that development planning would take into consideration the need to balance socio-economic development with environmental protection. In 2002 the Environmental Management Act chapter 20:27 was enacted providing for the preparation of LEAPs by all local authorities. This idea of environmental action planning involving the communities was first introduced in the rural areas under the District Environmental Action Planning (DEAP) process because it was originally believed that environmental problems were concentrated there. However in recent years it has been observed that, urban areas have also been experiencing increasing environmental problems because of the increase in urbanization and industrialization. Under the Environmental Management Act (CAP 20:27), all authorities are required to draw up Local Environment Action Plans (LEAPS) for the protection of the environment in their areas of jurisdiction.
What is a LEAP?
LEAP is an abbreviation for Local Environmental Action Plan. These are local plans that local authorities develop for the management of the environment within areas under their jurisdiction. Local authorities are mandated as stated in section 95 of the Environmental Management Act (CAP 20:27) to develop these plans. The LEAP process is spearheaded by the local authority. The process involves all key stakeholders, the community, Government Departments, NGOs, local leadership, environment committee and subcommittees, councillors, industry, private companies, religious groups etc coming together to identify the environmental challenges in their area, assessing /prioritising them in terms of their severity, developing action plans for the identified challenges as well as the monitoring plans.
Environmental action planning is done at many different levels; the Local Environmental Action Plans feed into the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) which is an environmental plan for the management of the country’s environment. This plan is produced by the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management.
A LEAP is a district plan; however, it might not be fully representative of what happens at ward level hence the need to also develop ward or even village plans; WEAPs and VEAPs respectively. Currently in Zimbabwe, the development of LEAPs is at its advanced stages while NEAP development is at its initial stages. In brief, the NEAP development process entails a thorough desk study of the stages other countries went through to develop their plans so that lessons learnt may be considered to improve our NEAP as a country. The process is participatory and involves surveys, interviews or consultation down to village level.
A LEAP is also a process, which address an area’s environmental threats or problems. It involves the relevant sections of the local community coming together, identifying their problems and concerns and working together to solve the problems. LEAPS focus on the local environmental issues such as the socio-economic situation of the community. Before these action plans can be implemented, local authorities should first give notice of the places where they will exhibit them and the period such exhibitions will take place. The action plans can then be displayed on the gazetted places and should contain a statement indicating the period within which affected people can make representation.
Why do LEAP?
Once the right actions are prescribed and implemented, LEAP ensures sustainable environmental management; safe, clean and healthy environments.
Sustainable management starts with correct planning
· Communities derive a lot of benefits from the environment hence the need to manage the environment sustainably.
· To have a coordinated way of doing things within a district.
· If properly compiled, the LEAP serves as a blue print for future investment.
· The participatory nature of the process ensures buy-in or involvement of every stakeholder in the process. This makes project implementation easier and shared. It enables the community to be identified with the projects and to have a sense of ownership over them.
Importance of a LEAP
· It provides the starting point for developing sustainable communities.
· LEAPs help to ensure that the community examines adequately and addresses the major environmental issues such as minimizing pollution and waste, using natural resources efficiently, reclaiming degraded areas, gullies and wetland, promoting pollution preventing and ensuring sustainable resources use over the long term.
· Makes local authorities autonomous thus fulfilling government policy of decentralization
· LEAPs are a forum for bringing diverse groups, individuals with different interests, values and perspectives together for shared vision.
· The participatory nature of the programme
· Enables the community to be identified with the projects and to have a sense of ownership over them.
Elements of a LEAP
1. Active participation
2. Community vision
3. Action plan
Defining goals of the LEAP
· To improve environmental conditions
· To strengthen the capacity of local government, NGOs and stakeholder groups to manage and implement environmental programmes
· To strengthen the capacity to negotiate for funds
· To promote partnerships
· To identify and assess the local environmental issues and produce action plans to solve identified problems.
· To rank and prioritize environmental problems
· To prepare environmental action plans at local level
· To fulfill sustainable development requirements
· To develop mechanisms for integrating environmental issues into development plans and programmes.
Outputs of a LEAP training workshop
· Draft LEAP document for the district trained
· Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for the LEAP
OUTCOMES OF A LEAP TRAINING WORKSHOP
· Improved knowledge on environmental action planning
· Establishment of partnerships between stakeholders
· Resource Mobilization within stakeholders for LEAP implementation
· Delegation of duties to all stakeholders involved in the LEAP process
· Shared vision between stakeholders.
What does the Leap process entail?
Identification of environmental challenges in an area.
Assessment (Cause-effect) and prioritization of environmental issues
Development of an Action Plan (Solutions)
Development of a Monitoring Plan