Protect and preserve wetlands

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THE Canadian Embassy recently celebrated its belated 150th birthday by planting trees at Greengrove Nature Reserve in Greendale, Harare.
The celebrations, which saw the planting of 150 tree species ideal for wetlands protection, could not have been more timely.
This year, the World Wetland Day celebrations ran under the theme ‘Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future.’
The water-berries and brush-cherries, among other species planted along the wetland, provide fruits, habitat and aid in ensuring water is retained along the wetland.
Zimbabweans have called for the protection of wetlands which have suffered immensely from various ills, among them pollution, rapid urbanisation and upstream agriculture.
Greengrove Nature Reserve was chosen for its proximity to Willis Dam (Greendale, Harare) which is just a kilometre from another water source, the Cleveland Dam, a Ramsar Site (Wetlands of international importance recognised by the Ramsar Convention of 1971).
Regrettably, human activity around Willis Dam has seen the silting of the dam and the disappearance of the hadeda ibis migratory bird which had the small island on this dam as its habitat.
The hadeda is a large, grey-to-partly brown species of ibis. It has a narrow, white, roughly horizontal stripe across its cheeks. Its wings are powerful and broad, enabling quick take-offs and easy maneuvering through dense tree cover.
Speaking at the greening ceremony, Canadian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Rene’ Cremonese said the environment had to be protected for future generations.
“2017 marked Canada’s 150th anniversary and for us, marking our 150th birthday as a nation is not just about celebrating the Canada we know and love, but about our friendships, engagements and partnerships across the globe,” Ambassador Cremonese said.
“One of the themes we chose, to commemorate this milestone, is the environment. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in announcing the appointment of Canada’s new Ambassador for Climate Change, said that ‘Climate change is everyone’s challenge and our children’s future depends on how quickly and seriously we tackle it’. This is clear in our event here and in the work we are undertaking with the Ministry of Environment as well as local and regional officials.”
Ambassador Cremonese said it had become everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the damage to the environment is halted.
“The struggle for food security and environmental protection is something we need to constantly consider. You will agree that our children will have to face the challenge of combating deforestation, climate change and protecting the environment in years to come. We owe it to these children and future generations to take resolute action on climate change,” Ambassador Cremonese said.
“The protection of wetlands is therefore important in order to lessen the impact of extreme weather events due to climate change, for healthy wetlands absorb floods and decrease the incidences and severity of catastrophic flooding.We hope that while you cultivate maize and other crops in the area, you will also protect these trees which play an important role in protecting the ecosystem.”
Canada has in the past provided over US$7 million through a range of development frameworks towards humanitarian response.
Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate Permanent Secretary Ambassador Grace Mutandiro, represented by Environment Management Agency’s Steady Kangata, highlighted the need for the community to take ownership of the park.
“As a Ministry, we are concerned with the continued depletion of our wetlands as they give space for urban agriculture. Our hope is that people appreciate the roles and value of nature and natural resources and understand the underlying theme of sustainability. We trust the community members will take care of the trees once the rainy season is gone.”
Wetlands benefits include water purification, flood protection, shoreline stabilisation, ground-water recharge and stream-flow maintenance.
Wetlands also provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including endangered species and losing them jeopardises the availability of fresh water.
Also speaking at the event, Alderman Samuel Chinyowa said it was time measures were put in place to ensure human activity did not result in the destruction of wetlands.
“This Willis Dam was designed by Government as a wetland and bird sanctuary and is part of the bigger Cleveland Dam which was declared a Ramsar Site. However, due to human interference through farming activities, many of the hadeda ibis bird life patterns have had to change due to disturbing the ecosystem,” Alderman Chinyowa said.
“This 22-hectare nature reserve has been neglected and has become a site for illegal dumping and cultivation. Beautiful trees that were once in this nature reserve have been cut down. It is for these reasons that the tree planting activity would be ideal to raise awareness of the need to preserve this natural beauty and habitat.”
Environment Africa’s regional director Innocent Hodzonge said the tree planting activity by the Canadian Embassy was an opportunity to reclaim the wetland.
“This is an opportunity and first step towards achieving total reclamation of the Willis Dam. It will also give an opportunity to bring back the migratory hadeda ibis birds and provide a serene park which the community can enjoy. We will lobby for partners to protect and fence off the place,” said Hodzonge.

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