Zimbabwe is bound to lose wetlands by 2040 if the environment is not conserved, a cabinet minister has said.
Minister for Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mangaliso Ndhlovu made the remarks during a virtual meeting on World Wetlands Day commemorations.
He cited population growth, urbanization and consumption patterns as putting unbearable pressure on wetlands and the water in them.
“Conservation and wise use of wetlands therefore becomes an unavoidable option for livelihood sustenance in this country.
“Population growth, urbanization and consumption patterns have put unbearable pressure on wetlands and the water in them. As a nation, we are bound to lose all our wetlands by 2040 if we remain in this business as usual mode.
“In Zimbabwe, wetlands make up approximately four percent of the country, including dams and lakes. Of the available wetlands in the country, a meagre 21 percent are stable, while 18 percent are severely degraded and 61 percent moderately degraded.
“Wetlands play other critical functions which include protecting us from floods, droughts and other disasters, providing food and livelihoods to millions of people and they support rich biodiversity; and they store more carbon than any other ecosystem. They remain the main game changer of human existence.
“It is sad and shocking to note that globally, we are losing wetlands three times faster than natural forests and wetland-dependent species are in serious decline.
Consequently, about 87 percent of the global wetland resource has been lost since 1700.
“Water, food and energy security are, to a larger extent, dependent on wetlands functioning and are necessary conditions for economic development and poverty alleviation.
“As outlined in NDS 1, wetland protection and restoration is a tool to redress the over-exploitation of groundwater and the draining or diversion of surface water, particularly in areas with significant population pressures and susceptibility to desertification, land degradation, and drought (DLDD),” he said.
“Our towns and cities are human constructs, and as such, government together with local authorities can influence and shape the evolution of towns and cities by integrating the principles of wetland wise use into planning and management decision-making.
“Wetlands should be considered as solution providers within an urban and peri-urban context, which can mitigate risks from a changing climate, support food production for a growing population, supply water and generate income through tourism and recreation.
“Too often the benefits which wetlands provide within urban and peri-urban environments are not fully recognized as they compete against urban development, but instead wetlands should be integrated into planning and decision-making thus becoming part of the development agenda.”
The minister urged for the protection of wetlands.
“Let us protect wetlands for our future generations so that they derive the same benefits we are enjoying today. In this regard, I call upon all citizens and stakeholders to partner my Ministry and the government in this endeavor to ensure that these critical ecosystems are protected.
“My Ministry is frantically working towards finalizing the Zimbabwe National Wetland Policy and the Ecologically Sensitive Areas Management Guidelines, whose gazetting is aimed at cultivating a culture of sustainable management of wetlands; and l want to applaud the active participation of stakeholders so far in this process.
“I encourage you to further employ the integrated catchment management approach to wetlands restoration and protection projects for sustainability in your conservation efforts.
“Supporting projects such as horticulture, beekeeping, orchards and aquaculture will go a long way in improving livelihood options for the local people in the various wetland projects areas,” said the minister.
Global statistics show that 10 billion tonnes of water is used every day of which 70 percent is used for food cultivation, 22 percent consumed by industry and energy.
Water use has increased six fold in 100 years and continues to rise by 1 percent annually yet only 2.5 percent of water on Earth is fresh water, mostly stored in glaciers, ice caps and underground aquifers and less than 1 percent of freshwater is usable. It is indeed a cause for concern.