World Wetland Day – 2011

Wetlands and Forests, is the theme for World Wetlands Day 2011, especially chosen because 2011 is the UN International Year of Forests.  Every year since 1997 on the 2nd February,  government agencies, non-governmental organizations and groups of citizens at all levels of the community are encouraged to undertake action aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular.   The Ramsar Convention is the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and is an International Treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands.   The Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance now includes 1,888 sites located in 159 countries.  Currently  in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) the following countries are signatory to the Ramsar Convention:  Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania  and Zambia

The slogan for World Wetlands Day 2011 is simple ‘Forests for water and wetlands.’

So the question we ask is, what is the role of forests – wet or not – in our lives and why does looking after them matter so much?  The primary answer is water: no matter who we are, where we live or what we do, our lives depend on it and our freshwater availability on a global scale depends on our forests.

The health of our wetlands, whether forested or not, are directly linked to the health of forests in our catchments.  Losing and degrading forests means losing and degrading wetlands.   Wetlands are like a sponge, explained in a simple way, when you put a sponge into water it soaks up the water and holds the water, but if you put pressure on the sponge the water is then squeezed out and the sponge is left dry.  There are many wetlands in Zimbabwe that are being damaged and destroyed by human activity  and what this means is that we are ‘squeezing out the water’ from the very sponges that keep our water tables and provide us with water.

In Zimbabwe, it is estimated that 15% of drainage basins are occupied by Wetlands.

A good example of wetland conservation and community participation is the Monavale Wetland which was under threat due to increasing housing developments, agricultural activities and illegal dumping of waste in the area.   In October 2006  a MOU – Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Birdlife Zimbabwe, Environment Africa and the Conservation Society of Monavale (COSMO) so as to bring interested parties together to protect the Monavale wetland.  This is a small but relatively intact wetland within the City of Harare and is of immense biodiversity importance, especially as a breeding ground for Crakes, Flufftails and other migratory species of birds as well as many other amphibians, insects, snakes etc.

The COSMO team and it’s partner organisations have worked tirelessly together to protect the Wetland with help from the Environment Management Act (Chapter 20:27) which defines a wetland and outlines the legal methods to protect and conserve Wetlands.

Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment;  they reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality.  They also provide habitat for animals and plants and they contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else.  The protection of Wetlands within our towns and cities are critical for our survival and the time has come for local residents to start taking action within their communities to stop the destruction and the consequent negative impacts to our environment.  There is only one world and it is our responsibility to take care of Mother Earth.



  1. Hi there, nice photos I was also on the suevry and managed to identify the 5 OBP’s at Duck Island, Swan Bay.. Was amazing sound and these birds were very healthy and excited while they flew from trees in the middle to various food on the edges. You would have taken some nice shots. They are not always on the island and i think they are smart as they will be left alone by the rec team(they were going to mist net them) to fly back to tassy where more can be done properly. Dont know if i realize still how lucky i was .

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