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‘Wetlands Under Threat From Land Barons’


MUTARE-The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has urged government to stop urban sprawls saying the haphazard nature of the new settlements is piling pressure on natural resources.

The environmental watchdog made the remarks in a Press Statement to commemorate the World Wetlands Day.

ZELA said there is increased pressure on natural resources despite a misconception that the COVID 19 pandemic has eased such pressure.

“Zimbabwe’s wetlands are under threat from both anthropogenic and natural pressures. The country still witnesses significant loss of these vital assets because of agricultural development, construction, deforestation, mineral extraction, and freshwater diversion.

“Development in wetlands without proper mitigation measures has resulted in the infringements of the functions and services provided by wetlands,” said ZELA.

“There is a misperception that nature is getting a break from anthropogenic activities during this COVID-19 era, instead the state of affairs shows the increased pressure on natural resources as a result of deforestation, illegal mining among other activities which are taking a toll on  nature.”

Environment Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu, says more than half of wetlands in Zimbabwe are moderately degraded, with the country likely to lose its entire natural water reservoirs by 2040 if efforts to conserve them are not strengthened.

In remarks made during a virtual commemoration of the World Wetlands Day, Ndlovu said lamented destruction of wetlands, calling for their preservation as they play a critical role in the prevention of floods, droughts and other natural disasters.

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He also said preserving wetlands can be a solution to the world’s growing freshwater crisis; the contribution of wetlands to the quantity and quality of freshwater on our planet cannot be debated.

“In Zimbabwe, wetlands make up approximately 4% of the country, including dams and lakes. Of the available wetlands, a meagre 21% are stable while 18% are severely degraded and 61% moderately degraded. As such, conservation and wise use of wetlands, therefore, becomes an unavoidable option for livelihood sustenance in this country.

“It is sad to note that globally, we are losing wetlands three times faster than natural forests and wet land dependent species are in serious decline. Consequently, about 87% of the global wetland resource has been lost since 1700,” he said.

This year’s World Wetlands Day ran under the theme “Water and Wetlands- Inseparable for Life” signifying the importance of wetlands as a source of freshwater and encourages action to restore them and stop their degradation

Wetlands serve various functions in the ecosystem such as flood attenuation, water purification through the removal of pollutants and other toxic substances, groundwater recharge, carbon dioxide assimilation, habitat for wildlife, sustaining unique biodiversity and serving important aesthetic, recreational and cultural functions.

ZELA said the 2020 to 2021 rainfall season has been a rude awakening on the need to balance ‘human development and wetland ecosystems’ as families in Budiriro 2, Chitungwiza, Norton, Gweru, Kwekwe lost properties built in wetlands.

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Government is still to develop a National Wetlands Policy for proper wetlands management despite Zimbabwe acceding to the Ramsar Convention on the 3rd of May 2013 and committing to implement its “three pillars,” said ZELA.

“Wetland management must be encouraged at all costs. This is because the destruction of these rich in biodiversity but fragile ecosystems has a high cost not only for the present but future generations as well.

“The disruption of our wetlands must cease, while the remaining ones must be retained, and where possible rehabilitation, restoration and re-creation of these wetlands must be attempted.

“There is no ‘planet B’, stop destroying and start restoring wetlands,” added ZELA.

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