Wetlands destruction stems from failure to uphold the law

Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on wetlands and the country enacted the Environmental Management Act which has provisions for the protection of wetlands.

As a signatory to the Ramsar Convention, Zimbabwe has seven internationally recognized sites which are Lake Chivero, Monavale Vlei, Cleveland Dam, Mana Pools, Lake Chivero, Driefontein Grasslands, Chinhoyi Caves and the Victoria Falls National Park.

Wetlands are important sources of water whose destruction can only lead to increased water scarcity

Cognizant of this fact, Zimbabwe enacted the Environmental Management Act which seeks to protect the important sources of water.

Wetlands are protected under the country’s Environmental Management Act, Chapter 20:27.

In as much as the country has put in place constitutional provisions for the protection of the wetlands, these important sources of water have of late been under threat due to illegal land occupations.

In Harare in particular, wetlands are under threat from illegal residential and industrial expansion projects which are a result of land grabs carried out in direct defiance of the country’s supreme law.

The ongoing invasion of the East side of Monavale Vlei, an internationally recognized site which is protected under the Zimbabwean constitution, is a case in point.

The invasion of Monavale is a direct disregard of the law and it is also of major conern to note that efforts by responsible authorities to stop the illegal acts of the land invaders are being resisted.

The area has been invaded since January 2017 and despite concerted efforts by concerned groups such as the Conservation Society of Monavale and Birdlife Zimbabwe, the invasion of Monavale Vlei is continuing with the invaders going on to construct illegal structures on the wetland.

To make matters worse, some “bogus dealers” are already advertising land which they claim is for sale yet that land is part of Monavale Vlei, a protected site.

It is quite apparent from the continued invasion of wetlands in Harare and the country in general that the failure to effectively implement the law is responsible for continued wetlands destruction.

It is also disturbing to note that bigwigs have chosen to go above the law to fulfill selfish personal interests at the expense of the collective interests of the residents of Harare.

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA), which has publicly stated that they did not issue a permit for construction on the site, is struggling to stop the invaders who are continuously ignoring their orders for them to stop their illegal activities.

Such a scenario can only point to corruption and abuse of political office for personal aggrandizement.

In light of these challenges, it should be noted that only when the law takes its course and is respected, can we be able to save wetlands from destruction.

The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) is on record saying wetlands destruction was responsible for the drastic fall in the water table in Harare and the ongoing invasions of wetlands should serve as a clear indication that the worst is yet to come.

In conclusion, it must be noted that abuse of authority by powerful or connected individuals has largely been responsible for the destruction of wetlands and the environment in general.

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