BY SHARON BUWERIMWE
THE Environmental Management Agency (Ema) has decried the destruction of wetlands in the country, with only about 18% said to be in a pristine condition.
Ema said the degradation of wetlands had been caused by infrastructural development, agriculture, invasive alien species, deforestation, mineral extraction, solid and liquid waste disposal, fresh water diversion as well as climate change effects.
“Wetlands play an important role in carbon sequestration. They take in twice as much carbon dioxide as forests, hence are great carbon sinks contributing significantly to climate change mitigation,” Ema said in a statement yesterday to commemorate World Wetlands Day.
The theme of this year’s commemorations was Wetlands Actions for People and Nature under the campaign message “Value, Manage, Restore, Love Wetlands”.
In 2011, Zimbabwe became a signatory to the Ramsar Convention, which aims at preventing the loss and degradation of wetlands worldwide and ensure they are used sustainably.
Ema said the country had a variety of wetlands that included flood plain, pans, swamps, vleis and artificial impoundments that occupy 34,96% of the total area of the country which is equivalent to 13 659 579ha.
Ema Midlands provincial environmental education and publicity officer Oswald Ndlovu told NewsDay that people must desist from destroying the country’s wetlands for the benefit of society and the environment.
“It is saddening to note that human activity has a significant contribution in the degradation of wetlands mainly through construction, agriculture and discharge of effluent among others,” he said.
“As we commemorate the day, Ema would like to encourage everyone to play their part in the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.”
Ema spokesperson Amkela Sidange said they had so far rejected 38 projects which were supposed to be undertaken on wetlands in a bid to safeguard them.
“As from around 2015-21, we have actually rejected about 38 projects on site suitably meaning those were projects that were proposed for implementation in wetlands,” she said. “For those that were ticketed, precisely I can say about 33 tickets were issued for various offences concerning wetlands and their management across the country.”
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) urged policymakers to prioritise the protection and restoration of wetlands in the country.
In a statement, ZLHR said the public should hold relevant authorities accountable for their obligation to manage and protect wetlands to protect the environment.
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