Focus on Wetlands as World Environment Day is commemorated in Zimbabwe

25 Jun 2014

imageWetlands like the Monavale Vlei play a major role in water system of Harare (Photo - www.monavalevlei.com))

Harare: A belated World Environment Day was commemorated in Zimbabwe with a call to safeguard the country’s wetlands and water resources. The event, involving representatives of NGOs, community-based organizations, academia, media and the UN was observed under the theme Wetlands and Water: a Combination for Life”.

The highlights of the day were presentations from the Conservation Society of Monavale (COSMO) and the Shurugwi Partners. Both are community-based organization which were supported with a US$ 50,000 contribution from the UNDP Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme (UNDP-GEFSGP) .

“When it comes to the environment, every single one of us can make a difference” stated the acting UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Reza Hossaini, adding that though “small” the GEFSGP projects were remarkable in the impact that they are making in communities across the country.

Reflecting on the current water situation in the country, University of Zimbabwe meteorologist Dr. Barnabas Chipindu said that access to improved drinking water sources and sanitation services are currently at 79% and 67% respectively.

“In Zimbabwe, access to safe water and sanitation has declined tremendously in both rural and urban areas owing to the economic challenges, aging infrastructure and low investments in the water sector, making it almost impossible for the country to meet the MDGs targets.”

In her remarks, UNDP Country Director Ms Verity Nyagah described the Ramsar Convention—that Zimbabwe is signatory to—as a good framework for mobilizing action on conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

“Through awareness creation, and working together, we can promote the principles of this convention and other key environmental instruments that the country is signatory to. This will go a long way in protecting our wetlands and ensuring environmental responsibility in communities,” said the Country Director.

Zimbabwe has 7 Ramsar sites which came into force on  the 3rd  May 2013 and these are; Monavale vlei, Driefontein Grasslands, Mana Pools national Park, Victoria Falls National Park, Cleveland Dam, Chinhoyi Caves and Lake Chivero and Manyame.

According to Ms. Debra Magwada, of the  Environmental Management Agency (EMA), implications of wetlands destruction in the country are reflected in several areas. These include pollution of underground water ,the increasing lowering  of water tables leading to drying up of boreholes especially in Ballantyne and Borrowdale areas. There is also the problem of cracking and bending of structures as a result of differential soil settlement.
“Projections by the Institute of Water and Sanitation indicate that by 2025 there will be water scarcity in Zimbabwe,” she said.

However, Zimbabwe has put into place various regulatory mechanisms to safeguard the country’s wetlands. These include the Environmental Management Act, Statutory instrument 7 of 2007 and the Water Act (Chapter 20:24) of 2002, among others.

 “These restrictions were imposed to address concerns that using water in the wetland would diminish downstream river flows, limit access to primary-use water by riparian populations and infringe upon existing water rights,” stressed the EMA official.

Zimbabwe’s “water crisis” is exacerbated by what Professor C.H.D. Magadza described as the failure to link environment and health as well as the huge cost in rehabilitating damaged ecosystems. Water wastage at the household level is also to blame.

“Consider changing your lawn grass from the broad bladed (Durban, Buffalo and Kikuyu) water thirsty grasses to a narrow bladed evergreen. This will go brown in winter and recover instantly at the onset of the rains. This is after all, the natural cycle in Africa,” he stated.

The event was also graced with a drama on wetlands from Ziya Cultural ARTS Trust from Masvingo and pupils from CHatiza Primary School had an opportunity to present a poem and song on wetlands and water.