By Rodrick Moyo (Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association),
John Majahana (Zimbabwe Environmental Law Youth Network) and Shingirai
Sakarombe (Harare Wetlands Trust)
World Environment Day is celebrated on 5 June every
year with this year’s theme focusing on ‘Biodiversity’. It is the United Nations day for encouraging
worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment.
Biodiversity is the term given to the variety of life on earth, this is provided,
through its expression as ecosystems, goods and services that sustain our
lives.People are changing ecosystems more rapidly and more extensively than any
other period in human history. An example of ecological diversity on a global
scale would be the variation in ecosystems, such as deserts, forests,
grasslands, wetlands and oceans. Ecological diversity is the largest scale of
biodiversity, and within each ecosystem, there is a great deal of both species
and genetic diversity. Sustainable development
involves the management and conservation of biodiversity in such a manner that
will provide persistent opportunities for future benefit.
Environmental damage is a pressing human rights
issue, which negatively impacts on youth and children’s rights presently and in
the future. Research has established that whilst negative environmental effects
affect all people, children and youth are particularly vulnerable due to their
evolving physical and mental development and status within society. Also, given
the indivisible nature of human and children rights, the right to a healthy
environment is a precondition of the enjoyment of the basic rights to life,
health, adequate food and housing, and traditional livelihood and culture.
There is therefore, a need to take action to ensure that children and youths’
right to a healthy environment is safeguarded as environmental damage harms
Wetlands for Biodiversity
are among the most productive life-support systems in the world and are of
immense socio-economic and ecological importance to mankind. They are critical for
the maintenance of biodiversity and perform a great role in the biosphere.
Ironically, wetlands have been perceived as wastelands associated with disease,
difficulty and danger. Emphasizing the negative impacts and ignoring their
importance, these habitats were considered obstacles in the path of progress
and hence drained, filled, despoiled and degraded for economic gains. The
wetland loss has been responsible for bringing to the verge of extinction
countless species of animals and plants that are dependent on this rich
ecosystem. Inadequate understanding of the crucial role and utility of wetlands
is a matter of serious concern. While we live in denial, the rate at which
wetland ecosystems are depleting world over is heartbreaking. According to the
2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
report, 85+ % of wetlands have been lost and 35% has been lost since 1970. This
is a serious cause for concern.
cause of concern in Zimbabwe
in Zimbabwe are declining at an alarming rate, negatively impacting
biodiversity and in turn people. (21%) of the documented wetlands in Zimbabwe are
considered to be severely degraded, and a further 61% are moderately degraded
(61%), with only 18% being classified as stable or intact. This highlights the
critical need for improved management of wetlands.
The radical increase in
population coupled with poverty in Zimbabwe over the years has far suppressed
the sustainable utilization of natural resources such as wetlands. This is
rampant in various communal areas of the nation including Zvishavane where
decimation of wetlands has become a habit over the area. Rapid population
distribution and settlement expansion has increased the demand in social
services and social safety nets. This has rendered destruction of wetlands by
some of the communities at the expense of attaining food security.Should
environmental conservation be sacrificed at the expense of livelihoods becomes
a pertinent question of the day which policy manners and developers are always
challenged with.The jeopardized wetlands conservation is also attributed to
escalating poverty in the area necessitating many people to rely on agriculture
for survival. This has seen many wetlands being engulfed as land for crop
cultivation. The rate of deforestation continues unabated due to population
expansion and the ever demand for land for cultivation. The various species are
dwindling and there is severe loss of biodiversity.
However, in some cases, the
insatiable appetite for financial resources has ignited environmental
injustices as this has necessitated radical destruction of wetlands. Hence the
local authorities continue issuing new stands on wetlands as a matter of
attaining financial gains. Furthermore, the dwindling and fading embracement of
indigenous knowledge systems( IKS) in the community has disconnected harmony
between people and the environment. Again the communities are no longer seeing the
value of wetlands conservation since cultural values endorsing IKS are slowly
dissipating. Wetlands were regarded as sacred and this regulated sustainable
use of them however nowadays they are regarded as public.
Also, the ever-increasing demand
for land for crop cultivation coupled with the clearance of land has posed
serious deforestation, loss of animal habitats and severe loss of biodiversity
causing the land to lose its aesthetic value. Hence this has fuelled
degradation of wetlands as this has become a culture in the aforementioned
areas. This has seen thousands of hectares of wetlands being engulfed as land
for agricultural purposes each year. Moreover, the construction of buildings
over the wetlands is and will be always a disaster to the well-being of
wetlands if the situation remains unabated. The Makwasha and Mandava wetlands
near Zvishavane town are under serious threat as the continued pegging of
stands and houses construction has immensely vandalized massive sizes of the
wetlands. To make matters worse aforementioned natural resource is being
destroyed by the very responsible local authority yet the Environmental
management Agency is doing nothing to curb such an environmentally injurious
behaviour. Therefore inconsistent and poor law enforcement on wetlands by
environmental custodians has created resistance among people and the audacity
to continue destroying wetlands.
Henceforth, it is imperative to
balance the pillars of sustainable development that include social, economic
and biophysical environment so as not to endanger or compromise either pillar.
The socio-economic development in Zimbabwe should not endanger conservation of
wetlands as this is a critical natural resource with various benefits hence it
should be conserved for future generations. There is need for punitive measures
and strict law enforcement by EMA to cultivate grounds to create a culture of
sustainable management of wetlands.
Wetlands in Harare and the water crises
ask why Harare wetlands ecosystem should be of concern to us. Harare is faced
with a serious water crisis at a time when the economy is not performing at
all. The location of the City of Harare is unique compared with other cities in
Zimbabwe. The City of Harare is built within
the headwaters of the Upper Manyame Catchment basin, a wetland ecosystem
located at the top of the watershed. The ecosystem forms part of the primary
water catchment area for the city feeding into the Lake Chivero downstream
where the City of Harare and Chitungwiza draws backwater for its residents.
This means our actions upstream have serious implications on our source of
water and these are manifesting as follows; heavily polluted water in the Lake,
the Lake has never spilt since 2017, therefore, increasing the concentration of
pollutants, increased water treatment costs among other problems. This is
mainly because we have seriously degraded wetland ecosystems upstream by
removing the biodiversity which is key for water storage, purification and
provisioning. In the last decade (2009 – 2019), Harare lost close to 50% of its
wetlands mainly due to developments encroaching into waterways and wetlands.
This is rather terrifying if one is to reminisce that there will be no wetlands
to talk about in Harare in the next ten years (2019 – 2029) if we are to remain
on this trajectory. We need to act and the time to act is Now!
What needs to be done? Lets Act
World Environment Day comes at a time when Zimbabwe has ratified both the
Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This
affords us an opportunity to reflect on our actions and consider giving nature
its space. This is the time to act!
are some of the interventions required to serve the remaining wetlands in
- Improved awareness of the crucial
importance of wetlands especially amongst leaders
- Improved protection through
strengthened legislation and regulation
- Improved management of wetlands
through improved planning processes, increased involvement of community
organizations and youths advocacy
- Restoration of degraded areas
Matter Now! Happy World Environment Day
 May R.M.2013. Stability and Complexity in Model Ecosystems.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press. 235 pp.