The year 2022 is significant as the World Wetlands Day will be observed as a United Nations international day for the first time
Wetlands are regions where water covers the soil for an extended period of time.
The prolonged presence of water produces ideal conditions for the growth of highly adapted plants and species.
They play a critical role in maintaining natural cycles and supporting a wide range of biodiversity.
They purify and filter waste from the landscape and regulate water and replenish our water.
For many, wetlands are the primary sources of freshwater, natural buffers against floods and droughts.
Most importantly, wetlands minimise the impacts of climate change.
Because of the many benefits we get from wetlands, World Wetlands Day is observed on February 2 every year to raise awareness about their importance and the need to preserve them.
On this day, The Convention on Wetlands was adopted in 1971.
This year is especially significant as World Wetlands Day 2022 will be observed as a United Nations international day for the first time.
On August 30 last year, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to mark the day.
While a lot of stress is laid on protecting forests, called the lungs of the Earth, not many know how wetlands contribute to maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
For instance, the world is losing wetlands three times faster than forests and nearly 90% of the wetlands have been degraded in the past 300 years or so.
There is a need to rapidly increase awareness about them to help preserve and restore them.
World Wetlands Day helps achieve that.
The theme of World Wetlands Day this year is “Wetlands Action for People and Nature”.
It aims to highlight the importance of actions to conserve and sustain wetlands.
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) in a statement said the day comes at a time when Harare’s wetlands which are a source of water for the City are being depleted at a faster rate by construction and agricultural activities with people settled on wetlands facing perennial flooding in areas such as Budiriro.
“Wetlands are fragile ecosystems rich in biodiversity and constitute resources of great ecological, economic, cultural and recreational value but lack of consensus among CSOs, government and other stakeholders on ‘sustainable use’ of wetlands is self-destructing.”
“Recently the government of Zimbabwe gazetted a wetland map recognising wetlands as ecologically sensitive areas that need to be protected and preserved, and guide spatial planning for local authorities and government,” CHRA said.
“However, the gap between policy and practice within our governance system is distressing and has been the major contributor to the depletion of wetlands.
Clear examples are the construction of houses in Borrowdale Vlei, LongChen Plaza and a big retail shop in Sunningdale along Seke Road.
“The selective application of the law we have witnessed of demolishing houses built on wetlands in high density suburbs while the same laws are not applied to commercial buildings and low density houses built on wetlands is unacceptable.
“We reiterate our position that the main threat to our wetlands are politicians and as we enter into the campaign period ahead of the 2023 elections, we call upon politicians from all political parties to desist from promising people housing stands on wetlands as this is counterproductive.
“Considering that our City is located on the catchment area of Lake Chivero, Manyame and Seke Dam and that our local authority is spending US$3 million per month on water purification, wetlands can perform the water purification and other ecological functions for free which are beneficial to the City.
“In line with chapter 14 of the Constitution on devolution and appreciating that our wetlands are unique, wetlands protection premised on the concept of community stewardship is the solution and government and local authorities must support such initiatives that will see the cultural, recreational, economic and ecological services are realised.” — NDTV/CHRA.