As the world commemorates World Wetlands Day, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has called for collective responsibility in preserving the water sources.
BY Edgar Gweshe
In an interview with NewsDay, Mnangagwa expressed concern over the rampant destruction of wetlands, especially in Harare.
Mnangagwa, who is also the Zanu PF deputy secretary for environment and tourism, pledged to work hard to ensure wetlands preservation, while at the same time vowing to ensure that measures are taken against individuals behind their continued destruction.
“Wetlands are important water sources and their destruction has negative effects on people’s lives. The situation in Harare is quite bad and I would like to call upon the Harare City Council and other responsible authorities to play their part and ensure wetlands are protected.
“Also, it is very important to ensure that we include communities in the preservation of wetlands. I am also of the view that wetland areas need to be fenced to avoid their invasion,” she said.
This year’s theme for World Wetlands Day is Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future. The day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971 in the city of Ramsar, Iran.
Zimbabwe is signatory to the Ramsar Convention and under the country’s Constitution, wetlands are protected under the Environmental Management Act.
In Harare, wetlands are the major source of water after run off, but of late, they have been under threat mainly due to urban cultivation and construction.
Mnangagwa also castigated unscrupulous politicians abusing their positions to invade wetlands.
“Those people must be brought to book because their actions are illegal. No one has the authority to invade wetlands and we are appealing to communities to be actively involved in wetlands protection and ensure that individuals who abuse office to invade wetlands are brought to book.
“We need to work together against these rowdy individuals if we are to protect our wetlands,” she said.
Community Water Alliance programmes manager, Hardlife Mudzingwa said complacence to implement the law, as well as lack of institutional co-ordination was behind the destruction of wetlands.
He said there was need to compel local authorities to put in place, as well as implement environment management plans
The Harare Wetlands Trust (HWT) has recommended that Harare’s Master Plan and Local Environment Plan needs to be revisited to ensure that no developments take place on wetlands.
“The extent of the power vested in the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate is a double-edged sword. A minister concerned with environmental conservation has ample power to ensure this eventuates. However, a minister more concerned to allow development, may utilise his or her discretion to the detriment of the environment, and it requires an approach to the courts to correct this,” HWT said.
Harare residents have since made a passionate appeal to the First Lady to intervene and save wetlands from destruction.
In Masvingo, the major threat to wetlands is stream bank cultivation, according to the mayor, Hubert Fidze.
Chitungwiza is also one of the areas where wetlands destruction is quite rampant and the council spokesperson, Lovemore Meya said that the new commission running the affairs of the town was prioritising the protection of wetlands.
However, Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association director, Marvelous Khumalo blamed local authorities for approving construction on wetlands.