Wetlands motion gaining traction

By Nhau Mangirazi

HARARE– Zimbabweans are still yet to come to the reality of effects of wetlands with calls for reviewing of the national environment policy and strategies of 2009.

If adopted well, it will help out on key wetland policies and strategies that reduces loss and degradation but giving way for continued growth and economic development of wetlands.

Recently, the parliamentary portfolio committee of Environment and Tourism on wetlands management heard that Environment Management Agency (EMA) is pushing for gazetted wetlands to be declared state land under the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality.

EMA spokesperson Steady Kangata said this will help to guarantee protection from abusers including local authorities.

EMA faces challenges that include limited coordination of roles by key sector ministries, as land barons encroaching wetlands who disregard environmental provisions.

Kangata added, ‘Some of these land barons disrespect the right of ownership and limitation of rights against environmental rights. We hope these anomalies can be rectified as we look forward to see the Government earmarking wetlands under parks and botanical gardens in order to increase their protection,’

According to Kangata, there must be interlinked wetlands laws under Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), Ministry of Local Government and Public Works as well as EMA. We also look forward to see gazetted wetlands declared state land under the responsible ministries.

Kangata added, “Our Government must take responsibility on compensation where necessary and enlist gazetted wetlands under protected parks and botanical gardens,”

The meeting follows workshops held under Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in collaboration with Harare Residents Trust in their thrust to awareness campaigns on wetlands including within Harare City council.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights represented Fiona Iliff supported recommendations by the parliament portfolio on wetlands management called on re-establishment of the National Environmental Council as an expert advisory council to the minister.

She called Parliament and the Executive to urgently implement the submissions in accordance with the government’s obligations as a state party.

The Ramsar Convention that Zimbabwe is a signatory to in sections 73 and 77 of the Constitution, to protect water resources for present and future generations.

Harare Residents Trust Director, Precious Shumba called for sober land allocation as it fueled corruption due to political influence that has seen the destruction of more wetlands.

Shumba castigated Government officials who get into power for personal benefits.

Parliamentary portfolio committee on Environment and Tourism Hon chair Concilia Chinanzvavana was happy that her committee presented the report on wetlands management was adopted in parliament.

Chinanzvavana who is Proportional Representative for Zvimba said, the results were driven through teamwork of the committee and the communities.

‘We had workshops with Harare Resident Trust, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights among other stakeholders. Recommendations made after these meetings saw the minister coming to parliament and came to respond. There were balanced debates that saw parliament adopting. It’s an achievement as voices of communities have been heard as part of policy formulation,’ she added