Zimbabwe hosts provincial, district commemorations to amplify wetlands preservation
By Wallace Mawire
HARARE, ZIMBABWE-All Provinces and Districts in Zimbabwe will hold commemorations showcasing wetlands that are under sustainable management in their areas of jurisdiction as the country observes the World Wetlands Day and amplifies the call to preserve wetlands.
According to Amkela Sidange, Environmental Education and Publicity Manager for the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Wetlands Day, on Wednesday, the 2nd of February 2022.
She said that the day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the city of Ramsar, Iran, therefore the treaty became commonly known as the Ramsar Convention.
Its aim is to raise public awareness on conservation, proper utilisation and management of wetlands and their resources.
The Ramsar Convention is uniquely positioned to reverse the loss of global wetlands and preserve those that are still in their pristine state.
As the only international treaty focused on wetlands, it provides a platform of 170 Contracting Parties working together for wetlands conservation and wise use, and to develop the best available data, advice and policy recommendations to realize the benefits of fully functional wetlands to nature and society.
It is reported that the wide range of ecosystem services wetlands provide means that they lie at the heart of sustainable development and remain key in the same agenda.
In May 2013, Zimbabwe ratified the Ramsar Convention on wetlands and designated seven wetlands for the purpose.
In addition, an intersectoral national wetlands committee was established to oversee national Ramsar processes and the country’s wetland management in general.
By becoming a signatory, Zimbabwe commemorates the World Wetlands Day each year, raising awareness and disseminating information on the sustainable use of wetlands.
The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Wetland Actions for people and nature,” under the campaign message -Value, Manage, Restore, Love Wetlands.
The theme highlights the importance of actions to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands for human and planetary health.
An urgent call to ACT is the focus of this year’s campaign.
The National Commemoration were held on the 2nd of February at Njovo Wetland, Zezai Village, Ward 18, Masvingo District.
The National Wetlands Policy and National Wetlands Guidelines, was launched during the same event. The two policy documents were formulated to inform decision making on the wise use of wetlands as provided for by the Ramsar Convention and section 113 of the Environmental Management At (CAP 20:27).
Thereafter all Provinces and Districts will hold their commemorations showcasing wetlands that are under sustainable management in their areas of jurisdiction.
Sidange said that wetlands are fragile ecosystems whose utilisation should only be done under a licence provided by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).
Zimbabwe has seven wetlands designated as Ramsar sites as follows namely Lake Chivero, Driefontein Grasslands,. Cleveland dam, Victoria Falls, Manna pools, Chinhoyi Caves and Monavale Vlei.
“The hope is to add more wetlands to the list which we will based on best practices for national and global interest to conserve the vital resources. The time to act is now, let’s all play our part in conserving our wetlands,” Sidange said.
Meanwhile, oN World Wetlands Day, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has urged policymakers to prioritise the protection and restoration of wetlands in Zimbabwe.
ZLHR encouraged the public to actively contribute to preserving wetlands and hold the relevant authorities accountable for their obligation to manage and protect wetlands for the collective benefit of society and the environment.
According to ZLHR, World Wetlands Day is commemorated every year on 2 February in order to highlight the importance of wetlands and to encourage their conservation. It is also reported by ZLHR that this year’s commemoration is special as it is the first time that World Wetlands Day is being commemorated as a United Nations (UN) International Day.
It is reported that this is a result of the adoption of a Resolution by the UN General Assembly, on 30 August 2021, which proclaimed World Wetlands Day as an International Day.
ZLHR said that this year’s theme for World Wetlands Day is “Wetlands Action for People and Nature.” The theme highlights the need to take concrete steps to ensure that wetlands are sustainably utilised.
In addition, it is said that the theme emphasises the need for political actors to prioritise the conservation of wetlands by allocating financial resources to programmes that are designed to protect them.
It is said that the theme also highlights the need for members of the public to participate in the process of conserving and restoring wetlands, for the collective benefit of the communities we live in and the environment as a whole.
ZLHR said that members of the public should also educate each other on the importance of wetlands to the environment, in order to complement government efforts and civil society programmes that are aimed at increasing awareness about wetlands.
It is added that wetlands are indispensable to the environment because they are sources of freshwater and instrumental in the regulation of global climate. Wetlands also contribute to biodiversity and economic development.
It is reported that despite their importance, they continue to be depleted at an alarming rate around the world, and in Zimbabwe in particular.
ZLHR said that the drastic depletion of wetlands requires urgent
attention and the collaboration of all nations.
In Zimbabwe, according to ZLHR, unlawful construction activities, such as the construction of houses on protected wetlands, are contributing to the rapid depletion of wetlands in urban areas.
ZLHR said that the improper allocation of housing stands on wetlands
by some authorities has eroded the benefits that are provided by wetlands to the environment and the local communities that depend on them for freshwater.
It adds that the unlawful authorisation of construction activities on wetlands by some Zimbabwean municipalities persists despite the fact that Zimbabwe is a state party to the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, which obliges state actors to work towards the protection and wise use of wetlands.
ZLHR said that it is encouraged by the recent decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Sharadkumar Patel & Anor vs COSMO Trust & Ors where the court upheld the Administrative Court’s decision
to revoke permits for a cluster home development on Monavale Wetland.
It is reported that the wetland has been designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
The court noted extensive procedural irregularities and a lack of due process, including a lack of stakeholder consultation by the City of
Harare and the Environmental Management Agency in the issuance of the permits.
ZLHR said that the government of Zimbabwe has the responsibility of ensuring that its seven wetlands of International Importance, the Ramsar Sites, are effectively managed.
ZLHR said that it is therefore imperative that the relevant authorities comply with their international obligations to conserve wetlands.
On this World Wetlands Day, ZLHR urged government to further protect the Ramsar sites as nature reserves through specific legislative, policy and planning processes, to prohibit any developments, mining or other interference with the ecological character of these sites.
The Zimbabwean policymakers to prioritise the protection and
restoration of wetlands in the country,the public to hold the relevant authorities accountable for their obligation to conserve and manage wetlands for the collective benefit of society and the environment, members of the public to complement government efforts by educating one another on the need to conserve wetlands, the authorities to desist from unlawfully authorising construction activities on wetlands and the authorities to comply with their international obligations to preserve and effectively manage wetlands of international