By Joyce Mukucha
In an effort aimed at combating the spread of the COVID-19 virus and at the same time striving to raise global awareness about the high importance of wetlands for people and the planet, the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry is set to commemorate the World Wetlands Day (WWD) online.
Celebrated annually on 2 February, WWD aims to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and the planet, the day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar.
This year’s WWD will be running under the theme “Wetlands and Water: Inseparable for Life” a theme that shines a spotlight on wetlands as a source of freshwater and encourages actions to restore them and stop their loss.
In an interview, the minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mangaliso Ndlovu said given the COVID-19 situation, the ministry’s main focus is aimed at becoming virtually effective pertaining to the articulation of wetlands important issues whilst trying the best to fight the vicious pandemic.
“We are going to hold our commemorations virtually so that we also join the world in fighting the spread of the virus but also at the same time we will be effective in articulating important issues of wetlands.
“We will have a virtual meeting which will be more interactive so that we can have guests who are able to make their contributions and interact with the minister on the day,” minister Ndlovu said.
Pertaining to the wetlands, the Minister said the nation has been grappling quite a lot with certain developments in wetlands which have over the years had a negative impact on the water situation, particularly in Harare.
According to Human Rights Watch, last year, more than half of Harare City’s 4.5 million residents were without access to clean water and were at risk of waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid.
Water and wetlands, minister Ndlovu said, were connected in an inseparable co-existence that is vital to life, human wellbeing, and the health of the planet.
“Particularly in seasons like this one, most people are grappled with waterlogging in their homes and our motto clearly says that water and wetlands are inseparable from life but we cannot co-exist with wetlands for life as long as we are building brick and motor on these wetlands.
“We have had a journey from 2019 end but mainly 2020 of trying to come up with guidelines on the wise use of our wetlands which we advocate for. We believe that there is some sustainable use of wetlands that can be achieved which will ensure that people benefit from these wetlands but also do not destroy them,” he said.
The environment ministry will also be gazetting wetlands maps. There are a few contests and reservations which ought to be dealt with. There is hope that they will be successfully addressed by end of the first quarter of 2021.
“So it is a development that we believe is going to help particularly those who own land to plan properly on the most appropriate uses of their areas so that running battles in the courts that aim at getting people to comply will not continue to happen.”
He said the ministry will not relent in its quest to protect the nation’s wetlands.
Minister Ndlovu pointed out that it was of paramount importance that people reverse the damage that they have caused to wetlands overtime and stop further destruction on these wetlands and ultimately promote their development.
Zimbabwe is facing a growing freshwater crisis that threatens people and the planet as more freshwater is being used than nature can replenish, with many destroying the ecosystem that water and all life depend on mostly.
“Wetlands are very important in that they are a sustainable source of freshwater and evidently we are now using more of freshwater than nature can replenish and we are destroying the ecosystem that water and all lives depend on.”
“These will be our key areas of focus. Given that mankind is facing a serious freshwater crisis that is threatening our people and our planet. So from our perspective, we want to virtually reach out and gain the buy-in of the population so that we walk together on this very important path.”
The 2021 WWD online celebrations, he stressed, will highlight the contribution of wetlands to the quantity and quality of freshwater on the planet.