Calls for wetlands preservation get louder

HUMAN rights lawyers have challenged the government to establish a national environmental council to help preserve wetlands and bar politicians from illegally allocating residential stands in swamps.

BY XOLISANI NCUBE

Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, representatives of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and Harare Wetlands Trust said the proposed advisory council would work hand-in-glove with Environment, Water and Climate minister Oppah Muchinguri.

“Wetlands are like giant sponsors, absorbing and purifying water which would otherwise be mostly lost as run-off. Current decision-makers seemingly favour the short-term benefits of developments such as revenue income from levies and rates, without a proper consideration of their environmental impact in the long term,” ZLHR representative Lizwe Jamela said.

Recently, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Water, Climate and Hospitality Industry tabled a report, accusing the government of neglecting wetlands by failing to domesticate a number of laws that safeguard swamps from invasion.

“Since there can be no sustainable development on wetlands, the Environmental Management Act should be aligned with the Constitution. This would provide for an absolute prohibition of construction on wetlands, other than in the case of overriding public necessity when another constitutional rights would be infringed upon if the development did not proceed.

“The executive should establish an environmental tribunal to investigate violations of environmental laws by end of July 2018. The tribunal should be composed of legally qualified commissioners with expertise in environmental issues and have punitive jurisdiction,” part of the report, which was adopted by ZLHR and its partners, read.

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