A Mutare based academic has called for the amendment of laws governing use of wetlands to enable their sustainable management and mitigate against climate change.
Dr Zanele Furusa from Africa University made the remarks on the sidelines of an Environmental Management Authority (EMA) organised symposium to commemorate World Wetlands day.
“Policies are crafted to address problems faced by the people and discussions around such problems comes solutions which can be used to make policy interventions.
“As it stands how can we ask locals to get a license to get water that is essential in their survival, people are dependent these wetlands, they are already breaking the law as it stands but should they die of hunger.
“Policies therefore should then be crafted in a way that ensures we have separate guidelines of use for commercial farmers and communities because such resources are important and there should be a balance between conservation and sustainable use for livelihoods,” said Dr Furusa.
She added that Zimbabwe’s current environmental laws which govern use of wetlands did not factor in climate change challenges now faced with the current and future generations.
EMA Provincial Manager for Manicaland, Kingstone Chitotombe said those seeking to utilize wetlands need a permit dictating special operational requirements that ensure wetlands are not degraded.
“We actually do have existing guidelines on wetland management which requires would be users of wetlands to get a permit that has operational requirements, there are certain activities that one cannot do even when they have the permit.
“As EMA we also have existing projects with communities that ensure sustainable use of wetlands as well as sustainable livelihoods, because it is a global challenge in managing wetlands,” said Chitotombe.
He also said the management of wetlands were a critical global challenge, more critical in Africa and Zimbabwe.
“Streams and tributaries are more often being used for cultivation and this is also posing a challenge to wetlands, urban cultivation, brick moulding are also among human activities damaging wetlands. We need to come up with solutions because it is a collective responsibility to ensure proper management of our natural resources.”
Chief Bernard Marange however laid blame on EMA for failing to enforce environmental laws as compared with the colonial regime which he said was stricter on adherence.
“EMA is not very strong, during the colonial governments, environmental laws were respected and offenses swiftly punished than in this era,” he said.
In Manicaland province over half of wetlands are severely degraded, with only a small percentage in pristine condition authorities at Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
Manicaland has a total of 247 wetlands according to a 2012-15 EMA survey with only 23 of those in pristine condition, the other 97 moderately degraded, while 127 are severely degraded.