World Wetlands Day: Environmental groups raise concern over wetlands destruction; push for prohibitive penalties for land developers, barons

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By Thandiwe Garusa

ENVIRONMENTAL organisations have raised serious concerns over the continued disappearance of wetlands and called upon management bodies to curb invasion by land barons and developers.

Commemorating World Wetlands Day Friday, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) called upon the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to ensure prohibiting penalties for offenders.

“To ensure wetlands are a reality in the future, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association recommends the following:

“Constant review of the policy and legal framework for the management of wetland ecosystems to ensure fines and penalties in the EMA Act are prohibitive.

“Local authorities must create and (or) enforce policies for constant restoration, creation, and enhancement of wetlands.

“The Environmental Management Agency must scale up the monitoring of wetlands to curb invasion by developers and land barons.

“Civil society organizations must collaborate with the government to advise on environmental policy, national goals and priorities and to give directions about enforcing the EMA Act,” ZELA said.

Another environmental lobby group, the Network for Environmental and Climate Justice (NECJ) also urged the City of Harare to promptly revise the capital’s masterplan, originally formulated in 1993.

NECJ contends that the plan inadequately acknowledges the significance of wetlands and their crucial ecological functions, contributing to the ongoing destruction of these environmental assets.

The lobby group suggests that a modernized masterplan, encompassing policies and strategies for land use and development, has the potential to be instrumental in preserving wetlands and promoting environmental sustainability.

“In Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, wetlands are the major source of water after run-off but they continue to be lost due to several activities that include unsustainable agricultural practices, sand mining, poor enforcement of the law, illegal construction activities and pollution.

“At a time, the city is using an outdated master plan, the demand for land for construction or housing purposes is continuously increasing in Harare and consequently, these projects are being undertaken at the detriment of wetland ecosystems.

“Proper land use planning in Harare should incorporate the need to protect wetlands in line with the vision of sustainable development of the capital,” said NECJ.