ONLY four out of 11 wetlands in Gokwe North are still functional with the rest having been depleted by stream bank cultivation.
In an interview with the Daily News, Environmental Management Agency (Ema) district environmental officer Allan Machenjedze said because the region is dry many people opt to farm where water is easily accessible and available.
The depletion of wetlands comes as most of the rivers in Gokwe North have dried up because of drought.
“We have asked the community to employ indigenous knowledge systems by not using modern water harvesting tools which damage the wetlands. Traditional systems are more conservative to water and do not damage the natural ecosystems of the area,” Machenjedze said.
He said Ema had issued out 10 orders against stream bank cultivation as a way to protect the water sources but if the residents did not heed the orders more drastic actions would be taken.
“If the people fail to comply with the orders, we will engage the Zimbabwe Republic Police to open dockets for them so that they are arrested and tried at the courts of law. So far there has been 75 percent compliance with the orders so we have not yet dragged anyone to court,” he said.
Ema Midlands province publicity officer Simon Musasiwa said there is also need to work with traditional leaders on the importance of protecting wetlands.
Musasiwa said through such interaction, there will be effective development and implementation of by-laws that enable wetlands to be preserved for their original purposes.
“Ema can only issue tickets up to $5 000 however, most of the damage that occurs on wetlands amounts to more than that, which is why we later resort to take the legal route of courts. For issues that may be difficult to handle we go through the Environment ministry after engaging with the environmental criminals,” Musasiwa said.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) counsel Fiona Iliff said gazetting of wetlands is the only way the water reservoirs can be protected.
“We are asking that the legislators gazette the wetlands in the country otherwise they will all be destroyed by various forms of developments. Previously they were slightly recognised, however, a court case involving Augur Investments scrapped their importance due to a technicality.”
“Zimbabwe signed and approved the Ramsar Convention on January 3, 2013 and even approved seven Ramsar sites in Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe is obligated to domesticate the Ramsar Convention in our environmental laws. To only issue fines and warnings against offenders is obviously proving not to work as we continue to see wetlands being destroyed,” Iliff said.