BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

HARARE Wetlands Trust (HWT) has engaged the Ministry of Environment to strengthen legislation reform with regards to the protection of wetlands.

HWT programmes manager Selestino Chari raised concern with Environment minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu at the stakeholders meeting last week.

The Harare Wetlands Trust said wetlands were being plundered in the capital and there was need to protect the water sources from further destruction and declare wetlands ecologically-sensitive areas. The organisation also called for the strengthening and reform of legislation which protects the wetlands.

“There is a need to strengthen and reform legislation with regards to the protection of wetlands. There is also an imperative need for the gazetting of the Harare wetlands map and the City of Harare should come up with a master plan as well as a local environmental action plan on the protection of wetlands,” Chari said.

According to the Environmental Management Act, wetlands must be declared ecologically-sensitive areas.

Chari added that the destruction of wetlands in Harare had resulted in the siltation of the capital’s main water source, Lake Chivero.

“Due to continued wetlands destruction in Harare, siltation of the capital’s main water source, Lake Chivero has rapidly increased. Wetlands destruction has also come with huge costs on water purification. Preserving wetlands will allow them to play their natural function of water purification, hence reducing costs associated with the purification of water.”

The HWT also encouraged the government to take a leaf from countries such as Kenya and Uganda that have implemented the Ramsar Convention recommendations on the restoration of wetlands.

“The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has been issuing Environmental Impact Assessment certificates that have paved the way for construction on wetlands and all spaces issued with certificates are wetland areas. We urge the authority to declare Harare a wetland city.

There is a serious violation of the law that is leading to the destruction of wetlands in Harare. Some companies are proceeding with construction projects in the absence of Environmental Impact Assessment certificates and development permits,” Chari said.

He further submitted that the City of Harare must be compelled to consult stakeholders before proceeding to issue development permits and also emphasised the need to create a one-stop-shop for the issuance of Environmental Impact Assessment certificates to allow for objections from concerned stakeholders.

Ndlovu concurred with the HWT submissions saying in light of the dire water situation in the city, there was need to protect and prohibit the construction on wetlands to preserve the water sources.

“I do not think it is sustainable to continue building on wetlands. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been very clear on the need to protect our wetlands and we also need to enforce the legislation that we have to make sure we protect our wetlands. We will make our best efforts to bring critical stakeholders to the table so that we come up with an agreed position on wetlands protection,” he said.

Legislators have been urging the government to urgently launch a countrywide crackdown on developments on wetlands and to censure EMA for failing to act.