ON WORLD Wetlands Day, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) reiterates its call to all stakeholders to combat the degradation of wetlands and conserve and restore them, as they are critical to the survival of the ecosystem and sources of water.
World Wetlands Day is commemorated annually on 2 February. The day is recognised as a United Nations International Day of Importance, and is celebrated to mark the anniversary of the signing on 2 February 1971 of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance commonly known as the Ramsar Convention in Ramsar, a city in Iran, which is famous for its hot springs.
Since then, World Wetlands Day has been used to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits and to promote the conservation and prudent use of wetlands.
In 2024, World Wetlands Day is being commemorated under the theme: “Wetlands and Human Wellbeing.”
The theme recognised wetlands as critical to human beings and nature thereby underscoring the intrinsic value of wetland in the ecosystem and the benefits they bring to livelihoods.
While wetlands are critical to the survival of our ecosystems and water source, it is worrying to note that Zimbabwe is currently grappling with massive degradation and decimation of wetlands, which are ecological greenbelts.
Unrepented local authorities and some so-called land barons have been the major culprits in ignoring the need to protect wetlands by approving housing developments on wetlands despite the existence of many domestic and international laws against such conduct.
Unsurprisingly, the result has been disastrous for some innocent residents, who were displaced after their houses were flooded and destroyed as happened in December 2023 in some parts of Harare, Chitungwiza and Mutare.
It is worrying that instead of shouldering the blame and hold themselves accountable for duping innocent residents, some local authorities had the audacity of blaming residents for constructing houses on wetlands rather than providing progressive and lasting solutions.
Despite these setbacks, ZLHR and its cooperating partners stand proud that for several years, it has consistently challenged such detrimental conduct by local authorities, central government and other non-state actors including greedy individuals in the courts, where the organisation obtained positive judgments in its favour to preserve and protect wetlands.
Protection and restoration of wetlands guarantees the right to water, which is enshrined in section 77 of the Constitution and also guarantees the right to an environment that is not harmful provided in section 74 of the Constitution.
This proves that the importance of wetlands to Zimbabwe is not far removed from human beings and are entrenched in our everyday lives, providing immense economic, cultural and biological value that is key to the existence and survival of people and fauna and flora.
In short, the existence of wetlands determines the survival of human beings.
To enhance the well-being of human beings and to protect and preserve wetlands, ZLHR calls upon local and central government and other culpable non-state actors to;
- Combat degradation of wetlands and conserve, preserve and restore those particularly considered to be Wetlands of International Importance or Ramsar Sites;
- Cease approving housing and other property developments on wetlands;
- Protect and preserve the environment and water resources for present and future generations;
- Impose punitive action on violators of environmental laws;
- Domesticate provisions of the Ramsar Convention and Convention on Biodiversity and incorporate them into Zimbabwe’s municipal law so as to uphold the obligations under international law to maintain Wetlands of International Importance;
- Increase awareness about the importance of conserving wetlands through educational campaigns and widespread media coverage.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
No. 103 Sam Nujoma Street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 242 764085/705370/708118
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