The Word Wetlands Day is celebrated on the 2nd of February every year, marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands. The Convention was adopted on the 2nd of February 1971 at the Iranian city of Ramsar. It aims at ensuring the sustainable management and use of wetlands. UNESCO says this year’s theme for World Wetlands Day ‘Wetlands and Water’ highlights the importance of wetlands as a source of fresh water and encourages action to restore them and stop their loss.
The Environmental Management Agency defines a wetland (doro/bani/amaxhaphozi) as an area where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface area of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.
To promote the worldwide protection and halt the extinction of wetlands through international cooperation, Zimbabwe signed the Ramsar Convention and domesticated its provisions under the Environmental Management Act (Cap 20;27). In Zimbabwe, wetlands such as Victoria Falls,Driefontein Grasslands, Middle Zambezi/Mana Pools, Lake Chivero, Monavale Vlei, Chinhoyi Caves and CleverlandDam are protected under the Ramsar Convention.
People should respect the ‘sanctity’ of these wetlands;however, urbanization has accelerated their loss as structures have been built on wetlands especially in Harare. It should be noted that there are risks associated with constructing houses in wetlands. This year’s incessant deluges have reminded people of their mistakes by constructing their houses in wetlands as they were affected by floods. It is highly likely that people who reside in wetlands will suffer from water borne diseases.
Contributing to the management of wetlands requires an understanding of the importance of wetlands. Some of the benefits of wetlands given by EMA include:
1. Filter pollutants
2. Control veld fires
3. Provide important habitat for a wide variety of wildlife
4. Ensure food security if sustainably utilized
5. Trap moderate of soil running off nearby uplands before they enter lakes and streams
6. Maintain and improve water quality by filtering contaminants and excessive nutrients;
7. Recharge groundwater supplies
8. Support recreational activities including fish, hunting, nature appreciation, bird watching and so much more and
9. Provide opportunities to participate in outdoor educational activities and to enjoy the aesthetic qualities of wetlands.
We should all act responsibly to ensure the sustainable management of wetlands. There is a need for us to jealously guard and protect wetlands so that we keep enjoying what they offer to humanity.