Human Rights Lawyers’ Statement On World Wetlands Day {Full Text}

TAKE ACTION NOW TO PRESERVE AND PROTECT WETLANDS IN ZIMBABWE

ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) joins the world today, 2 February 2020, in celebrating World Wetlands Day under the theme ‘Wetlands and Biodiversity With the increasing threats of climate change, Zimbabwe’s wetlands are critical to the survival of our ecosystems and water source.

Wetlands act as a carbon sink, mitigating climate change, and sustaining high biodiversity of animal and plant life. Wetlands are like giant sponges, absorbing water, which would otherwise be lost as run-off, preventing flooding, siltation and erosion.

The water absorbed throughout the rainy season is slowly released in the dry season into the stream and river systems, finding its way into major supply dams, such as Chivero and Manyame. Without the wetlands, these dams would quickly run dry in winter months and poor rainy seasons.

The wetlands also filter and purify the groundwater before it enters the water supply, protecting against disease and toxins.

The degradation and loss of wetlands have increased siltation and pollution of dams. Zimbabwe is a state party to the Ramsar Convention (the Convention on Wetlands of Intentional Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat, Ramsar, 1971).

The state has designated seven wetlands as Ramsar Sites of international importance (including Monavale wetland, Victoria Falls, Lake Chivero and Chinhoyi Caves among others).

Although there are domestic legal provisions for the protection of wetlands in the Environmental Management Act, the country is facing unprecedented levels of development and degradation of wetlands.

In the face of this crisis, ZLHR with its partners Harare Wetlands Trust has been working on a sustained campaign to protect wetlands through litigation and advocacy efforts.

Several favourable judgments and out of court settlements have been finalised to protect core wetlands, such as the University of Zimbabwe wetland, Monavale Ramsar site, Marlborough wetland, Rhodesville wetland and Boundary Road wetland.

In response to its advocacy efforts, ZLHR welcomes the recent responses from Zimbabwean authorities, who have started to acknowledge the extent of the wetlands crisis and the need for reform.

However, ZLHR notes that without urgent action, the wetlands, their biodiversity, their critical ecosystem services and our water source will be irrevocably impacted.

On this World Wetlands Day, ZLHR calls on the authorities, particularly the Parliament of Zimbabwe, the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, the Environmental Management Agency, the City of Harare, and indeed all local authorities across the country, to honour the commitments that have been made, and to urgently implement measures for the protection of wetlands including:

  • Expert mapping of wetlands
  • Gazetting of wetlands to prohibit development on wetlands except in the most exceptional circumstances;
  • Managing and restoring wetlands; and;
  • Establishing nature reserves on wetlands.

These recommendations are made in accordance with Zimbabwe’s obligations as a state party to the Ramsar Convention, and in terms of section 4 of the Environmental Management Act, and sections 73 and 77 of the Constitution, to protect the environment and our water resources for present and future generations,

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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