As Zimbabwe is preparing to join the rest of the world in commemorating the World Wetlands Day, a Government official has urged the citizens to conserve wetlands explaining that they provide livelihoods for more than one billion people and help feed the world.
Briefing the stakeholders in Harare on the 29th of January 2020 the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Honorable Mangaliso Ndlovu said it was disconcerting to note that wetlands are vanishing three times faster than forests, and this is a warrisome development and it’s very shocking.
“Wetlands biodiversity is in steep decline and this is a cause for concern. About 35 percent of wetlands have dissapeared since the 1970s and 87 percent have been lost since the 1700s.
“As you may have observed,our rainfall patterns and seasons have been changing over the past few years. It is estimated that over one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction and climate change is worsening the situation. In this regard we really need to conserve our wetlands. We cannot fold our hands and watch all the biodiversity found in our wetlands disappear,”he said.
Honourable Ndlovu emphasized that there was need to decide strategies to sustainably manage the wetlands for the benefit of the present and future generations.
When extreme climate related disasters strike, he said,wetlands play a critical role in mitigating the impact.
“If we conserve and sustainably utilise our wetlands,when climate related events occur,wetlands act as a buffer that can mitigate their impact.Wetlands work to reduce floods and relieve droughts. Inland wetlands such as flood plains,rivers,lakes and swamps function like sponges, absorbing and storing excess rainfall and reducing flood surges. During dry seasons in arid climates, wetlands release stored water , delaying the onset of droughts and minimizing water shortages,” said Minister Ndlovu.
He also appealed to the members of the fourth estate to take challenge and help spread information on the importance of wetlands conservation and biodiversity and their role in mitigating and reserving the impacts of climate change and warn citizens on the negative impact that await mankind as a result of their massive deterioration.
Following the growing pressure and conflict in the manner in which wetlands are managed in Zimbabwe, it has been revealed that Government is in the process of formulating wetlands management guidelines which should be ready for use during the first quarter of 2020 to provide a road map and tool kit on the protection of wetlands.
In Harare and Chitungwiza, infrastructure development through commercial and housing construction projects has become the greatest threat for wetlands and the Minister said if measures are not taken to curb such activities, wetlands in urban areas will be a history by 2040.
In line with the vision 2030 of creating a middle income economy, he pointed out,anchored on food security, the Njovo Wetland Protection and Utilisation Projects clearly demonstrates how wetlands provide essential ecosystem services, and benefits such as regulating and providing water for agricultural activities which provide food security for the people.
Zimbabwe is home to approximately 1 271 wetlands covering 3 percent of the total land area, of the available wetlands, q meager 21 percent are stable, 61 percent moderately degraded and 18 percent are severely degraded.