On January 22, a historic meeting organised by the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC) which drew together 50 brave and true gladiators for wetland conservation, comprising representatives from humanitarian, water security and environmental organisations, wetland experts, hydrologists and geologists, journalists and concerned citizens, has resulted in the immediate formation of the Wetlands Survival Forum. The delegates resolved to educate the public as a matter of dire urgency on the wetlands crisis and its extremely serious implications for all of us, and to put pressure on policy and law makers at highest levels, to put an end, once and for all, to all proposed and actual development and other destructive human activities on the wetlands that remain.
Column by Rosie Mitchell
Last year, the issue of the on-going and rapidly escalating loss of wetlands nationwide, and especially, in the capital, to illegal human activities in the form of cultivation, dumping and construction, received greater media attention. More and more people are waking up to the real facts of the matter: The wetlands are our lifeline to water. They are right at the head of the hydrological sequence through which ultimately water comes out of our taps, boreholes or wells, and we capital dwellers are right at the top of this natural, and if left well alone, perfectly functioning water system, because of the position of our city at the top of the watershed. As a result, almost 7 million people depend on the conservation of the wetlands found in and around Harare. But these are systemically and rapidly being destroyed by unscrupulous developers whose motivation is money and who do not care about the longer term consequences for everyone!
The meeting on January 22 which started with informative presentations by Dr Chris Magadza, expert hydrologist and pre-eminent wetlands champion, and Alleta Nyahuye, representing the Environmental Management Agency, led to fruitful discussions around the many issues, which at heart, are humanitarian. While wetland conservation obviously has importance environmentally, beyond the hydrological processes they support to sustaining biodiversity and preventing the extinction of species which survive only in such areas, fundamentally, the wetlands crisis from the human perspective is about water supply. Already, water security is a burning concern across our country, especially in Harare and Bulawayo, in both of which cities, there simply is no longer enough water for the populations now living there. This shortage can be laid in no small part at the door of wetland destruction, the wetlands underpinning the very foundation of our ultimate water supply.