Title Deeds are not a right to destroy the Wetlands: Zimbabwe Environment Minister Warns

Whatever can be done in a wetland should not materially alter or affect the wetlands, the environment minister said.

John Cassim

Mangaliso Ndlovu, Environment, Climate and Wildlife Minister, speaking during the pre-World Wetland Day press conference at Mukuvisi Woodlands, in Harare

Harare, Zimbabwe – The Zimbabwean Minister of Environment, Climate, and Wildlife, Mangaliso Ndlovu, has warned holders of title deeds to properties that include wetlands, that ownership of land, is not a license to destroy.

“Where there is title to the land that has a wetland, and if that title is proven through the Ministry of Local Government, you then need to work with EMA, to find ways in which impact could be minimized, of any project that can be undertaken in the wetland,” Mangaliso Ndlovu, Minister of Environment, Climate and Wildlife, warned.

The Minister, made these remarks while responding to questions as to why the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has been issuing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates to land owners who end up constructing in the wetlands.

This was at a press conference held at Mukuvisi Woodlands in Harare, on Tuesday, ahead of the World Wetland Day, which is commemorated each year on February 2.

In Zimbabwe the commemorations will be held under the theme, ‘Wetlands for Sustainable Livelihoods’ and globally the theme is, ‘Wetlands and human well-being.’

“Whatever can be done in a wetland should not materially alter or affect the wetlands, again we cannot say nonusage but we need to find a way to innovatively utilise our wetland. Some through recreational activities are able to rehabilitate the wetlands, that’s what we want when we issue EIAs,” he added.

Ndlovu bemoaned that the call to preserve the wetlands is a delicate balance as it is not easy to strike, between making sure there is wise usage and utilization so that the wetlands continue to be protected.

This comes following complaints that owners of land where there are wetlands are flouting EIA restrictions leading to protracted court challenges with EMA, and as such calls for the amendment of land ownership laws, have been made in a bid to protect wetlands.

The Minister also indicated that EMA is very strict when it comes to issuing the EIA certificates, hence his office is having to deal with several appeals by title deed holders of which the majority of appeals do not succeed owing to the restrictions contained in the EIA.

There has been an outcry by environmentalists following reports that 21% of the country’s wetlands are severely degraded, 18% are stable and 61% are moderately degraded.

In Zimbabwe, wetlands cover approximately 136 595.8km2 which is 34.96% of the total area of the Country.

To date, the world has lost 85% of its wetlands since the 1700s, and they are disappearing three times faster than forests.

In just 50 years since 1970, about 35% of the world’s wetlands have been lost.

Human activities that lead to the loss of wetlands include drainage and infilling for agriculture and construction, pollution, overfishing and over-exploitation of resources, invasive species, and climate change.

In the last five decades, 81% of inland wetland species and 36% of coastal and marine species have declined.

On a positive note, the Environment Ministry through EMA has been involved in wetlands protection and utilisation projects across the country to demonstrate to communities that wetland protection and sustainable utilisation are possible.

Currently, ninety-two (92) wetland restoration projects have been implemented across the country with support from the Government and Development partners.

Examples of these include Nyamuenda Wetland in Nyanga, Domborutinhira in Mutasa, Nyamhara Wetland in UMP, Kasibo Wetland in Hwange, Muvhami Wetland in Makonde, Mpompini Wetland in Insiza and Songore Wetland in Murehwa, among many others.

Communities are benefiting from market gardening, apiculture, and fish farming, whilst at the same time conserving their wetlands.

Zimbabwe ratified the Ramsar convention on 11 February 2012 and has since designated 7 wetlands as wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites).

These are the Victoria Falls, Driefontein Grasslands, Middle Zambezi/Mana Pools, Lake Chivero, Monavale Vlei, Chinhoyi Caves, and Cleveland Dam.

World Wetlands Day is commemorated to mark the signing of the treaty on the conservation of wetlands, which occurred on the 2nd of February 1971 in Ramsar, Iran.

The treaty became popularly known as the Ramsar Convention and its aim is to raise public awareness of the conservation, proper utilisation, and management of wetlands and their resources.

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