World Wetlands Day 2nd February 2012

The theme for World Wetlands Day 2012 is Wetlands and Tourism to bring global focus on tourism in and around wetland areas.

 

What are Wetlands?


Wetlands are areas of land that are saturated with water for all or most part of the year and the soils of these habitats are shaped by water.  Because of their unique composition, wetland areas are highly productive ecosystems. These damp, soggy areas, when healthy, are among our planet’s most diverse and varied habitats supporting a wide spectrum of plant and animal species, more so than most other habitats.

 

Wetlands slow erosion, help recharge groundwater, and help prevent flooding.

Like a ‘giant natural water filter’ these wet, spongy soils trap the sediment and particles in polluted water allowing  clean, fresh water to pass through.  Because of this unique process, wetlands play a vital role in ensuring the availability of good quality water in large volumes and form part of critical catchments feeding into major water ways and rivers.  The most common known  wetland areas in Zimbabwe are Dambos, or vleis.  Dambos also provide fresh pastures for livestock and fertile soil for agriculture and critical habitats for wildlife.

 

It is ironic that this year’s theme for World Wetlands Day is ‘Wetlands and Tourism’ because if you drive out of Harare on the Bulawayo road, you will see a major development taking place on what was once a pristine natural wetland area next to the National Sports Stadium in Belvedere.  Where a few months ago, beautiful indigenous trees stood tall, many planted by Heads of States from other countries as a symbol of solidarity and friendship, a five star hotel is being constructed by a Chinese consortium at a rapid rate, despite major objections by local residents, environmentalists and other interested parties.  EMA, the Environmental Management Agency have put up a legal fight to halt construction saying a proper EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) had not been carried out prior to commencement of the development and this was only submitted once construction was under way.  Local council also reiterated that no developments were allowed to take place on wetlands and recommended that urgent measures be taken to stop the development.  Council also said the government had not stated their intention for the use of the land when they acquired it, stating it was in the ‘national interests’?  Is destroying a vital wetland to make way for a hotel in our national interests?   Where is the cohesion and co operation between the various authorities to say ‘no’ this is not right and to put a stop to it?  As is too often the case, the laws in place to protect our environment appear to have been disregarded and despite all the protests and legal applications, construction continues and brick and mortar grow daily instead of the natural fauna and flora that once flourished on this land.  Maybe it is time for outdated legislation to be addressed and amended and to streamline co-operation between relevant authorities, if not, these valuable natural resources are in ‘critical danger’ of dying.   Cases such as this are a sad indictment on the lack of protection and conservation of our environment.  There can be no justification for any development to take place on a critical natural resource of this nature, it is irreplaceable and it will be the next generation who will look back and ask ‘why?’  We need to stand together as a responsible civil society who truly cares for our environment and communities and let our voices be heard.

 

‘Think globally, act locally, together we can make a difference’

 

www.environmentafrica.org

“Think globally, act locally”

 

 

 

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