By Staff Writer
THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has condemned unlawful construction of houses on wetlands saying such activities are negatively contributing towards climate change.
In a statement to mark the World Wetlands Day , the rights group decried continued abuse of the wetlands through illegal developments.
“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 rights group said.
The legal rights group said 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 however expressed gratitude over 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 lobby group charged the government to enforce the constitutionally ordained responsibility of ensuring that its seven (7) Wetlands of International Importance, the Ramsar Sites, are effectively managed.
“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 must 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;” said ZLHR.
The lobby group also urged members of the public to complement government efforts by educating one another on the need to conserve wetlands and advised local 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,” added ZLHR.