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Construction on wetlands in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe wetlands under siege

By Laurence Kanyasa

Environmental Management Agency (EMA) says wetlands in Zimbabwe are under threat due to human activities such as allocation of housing stands, agriculture, industrial construction and other human activities.

Over the past 15 years the country has witnessed significant degradation of wetlands by a fifty percent margin.

This phenomenon has been attributed to conflict between human well being where there is an increasing demand for housing in urban areas and the ecosystem that is a sole habitat for others biodiversity species.

Addressing a gathering held by the Africa Institute for Environmental Law (AIEL), EMA representative Maxwell Maturure said government through the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality and the local government have come up with three major documents that are aimed at protecting and safeguarding wetlands in the country.

Over the years, there have been conflicts amongst politicians, land barons and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) over human needs and environmental needs.

“Land barons and politicians in local government allocate stands to unknowing home seekers on wetlands which then creates a conflict of interest when these structures are demolished” said Maxwell Maturure, manager, environmental planning and monitoring and planning in the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

Maturure added on to say that in terms of the law there is no coordination between local government and the environmental protection body.

In most cases, there is a stalemate when an individual owns a piece of land that is a wetland, the problem come when development starts, conflict arises.

“The legislative framework does not provide clarity on ownership rights and environmental rights”

Wetlands play a significant role in mitigating the effects of climate change such as flooding

Zimbabwe has seven catchment areas, which constitute 34.96 percent of total land area in the country. 

These areas include Manyame, Umzingwane, Mazowe, Sanyati and others, these area have seen a huge number of degradation with statistics showing that there has been a 30%, 33%, 26

According to EMA, 26 percent of all wetlands in Zimbabwe are degraded, 55 percent are in a moderate state whilst the remainder is still in a safe state

Harare and Bulawayo residents association say that there is need for government to recognise that there is a link between natural disasters and wetlands management.

In 2021 flash flood destroyed houses built on wetlands which is a direct impact of development on wetlands

According to the government through EMA and the ministry of environment, wetlands are natural infrastructure, which are key enablers in terms habitation and recreation

“Protection of wetlands is of importance in securing the future in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1)”

The government of Zimbabwe is currently in a transboundary initiative on the Zambezi basin conservation in which eight countries that benefit from the Zambezi River will help in protecting the water resource

In that regard the gover5 has dedicated one million dollars towards this initiative and hopes are higher that this will go along way in protection of wetlands.

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