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Unlawful Construction Activities, On Protected Wetlands, Contributing To The Rapid Depletion Of Wetlands In Urban Areas




ON World Wetlands Day, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) urges policymakers to prioritise the protection and restoration of wetlands in Zimbabwe.


ZLHR encourages the public to actively contribute to preserving wetlands and hold the relevant authorities accountable for their obligation to manage and protect wetlands for the collective benefit of society and the environment.



World Wetlands Day is commemorated every year on 2 February in order to highlight the importance of wetlands and to encourage their conservation. This year’s commemoration is special as it is the first time that World Wetlands Day is being commemorated as a United Nations (UN) International Day.


This is a result of the adoption of a Resolution by the UN General Assembly, on 30 August 2021, which proclaimed World Wetlands Day as an International Day.


This year’s theme for World Wetlands Day is “Wetlands Action for People and Nature.” The theme highlights the need to take concrete steps to ensure that wetlands are sustainably utilised. In addition, the theme emphasises the need for political actors to prioritise the
conservation of wetlands by allocating financial resources to programmes that are designed to protect them.


The theme also highlights the need for members of the public to participate in the
process of conserving and restoring wetlands, for the collective benefit of the communities we live in and the environment as a whole.


Members of the public should also educate each other on the importance of wetlands to the environment, in order to complement government efforts and civil society programmes that are aimed at increasing awareness about wetlands.


Wetlands are indispensable to the environment because they are sources of freshwater and instrumental in the regulation of global climate.


Wetlands also contribute to biodiversity and economic development.


Despite their importance, they continue to be depleted at an alarming rate around the world, and in Zimbabwe in particular.


The drastic depletion of wetlands requires urgent attention and the collaboration
of all nations.


In Zimbabwe, unlawful construction activities, such as the construction of houses on protected wetlands, are contributing to the rapid depletion of wetlands in urban areas.


The improper allocation of housing stands on wetlands by some authorities has eroded the benefits that are provided by wetlands to the environment and the local communities that depend on them for freshwater.


The unlawful authorisation of construction activities on wetlands by some Zimbabwean municipalities persists despite the fact that Zimbabwe is a state party to the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, which obliges state actors to work towards the protection and wise use of wetlands.


ZLHR is encouraged by the recent decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Sharadkumar Patel & Anor v COSMO Trust & Ors where the court upheld the Administrative Court’s decision to revoke permits for a cluster home development on Monavale Wetland.


The wetland has been designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.


The court noted extensive procedural irregularities and a lack of due process, including a lack of stakeholder consultation by the City of Harare and the Environmental Management Agency in the issuance of the permits.


The government of Zimbabwe has the responsibility of ensuring that its seven (7) Wetlands of International Importance, the Ramsar Sites, are effectively managed. It is therefore imperative that the relevant authorities comply with their international obligations to conserve


On this World Wetlands Day, ZLHR urges:

• Government to further protect the Ramsar sites as nature reserves through specific legislative, policy and planning processes, to prohibit any developments, mining or other interference with the ecological character of these sites.
• The Zimbabwean policymakers to prioritise the protection and restoration of wetlands in the country;

• The public to hold the relevant authorities accountable for their obligation to conserve and manage wetlands for the collective benefit of society and the environment;
• Members of the public to complement government efforts by educating one another on the need to conserve wetlands;

• The authorities to desist from unlawfully authorising construction activities on wetlands,

• The authorities to comply with their international obligations to preserve and effectively manage Wetlands of International Importance.

Robert Tapfumaneyi