BY BEAUTY NYUKE
THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) yesterday said Zimbabwe was set to enhance effectiveness of its wetlands management after Cabinet last week announced that wetland maps were now available in hardcopy and electronic format.
The country has been struggling to manage its wetlands due to lack of maps and corruption, which has resulted in houses, shopping malls and other buildings being constructed in wetlands in violation of council by-laws and environmental laws.
EMA environmental education manager Amkela Sidange said the availability of the maps would reinforce sustainable wetland management in the country and inform the wetlands policy.
“The inventory of Zimbabwe’s wetlands together with the accompanying maps is now available in hardcopy and electronic format. The completion of the national wetlands masterplan is earmarked to inform the development of the national wetlands policy,” Sidange said in a statement yesterday.
“Furthermore, Cabinet indicated that the master plan is comprehensive and is made up of the Zimbabwe national wetlands map; 10 provincial wetlands maps; 63 district wetlands maps; field wetlands maps; the national wetlands geo-database; and a national wetlands interactive GIS webmap which provides an interactive platform for wetlands visualisation to the general public, and the mobile application that can be accessed online.
“Wetlands remain one of the country’s vital ecosystems that have traditionally provided a wide range of ecological goods and services, and this announcement by cabinet confirms the obligation of the country to prioritise judicious wetland protection.”
Sidange said the national wetlands master plan was pivotal in enhancing integrated wetland management, which she said was vital for ecological systems.
“Wetlands must be integrated into watershed and catchment planning as they remain an integral component in water management at a catchment scale, hence by virtue of this crucial role, wetlands have to be explicitly integrated into catchment management, as wetlands play a pivotal role in flood management, soil erosion attenuation, pacifying impacts of climate change and further act as veld fire buffers, among other related functions,” she said.
“They provide a strategic fit in the protection of livelihoods, life and property, also integrating wetlands with the recreational areas and tourism as the economic value of wetlands in the non-consumptive tourism is significant and strategic, hence cannot be ignored.”
Sidange also urged the country to raise awareness of wetlands to promote their sustainability.