More than three hundred people gathered on Monavale Wetland yesterday, in recognition of World Wetlands Day. The event was hosted by Birldlife Zimbabwe and the Conservation Society of Monovale, and was a follow up from a conference held on 2 February at Rainbow Towers. This year’s event ran under the theme “Wetlands for our future – Enticing youth to experience wetlands for themselves”.
Organisers were pleased by a full house with well over 200 students representing 24 schools in attendance. Also present were representatives from Environmental Management Agency, City of Harare and numerous other environmental and civil society organisations. The strong closing remarks were delivered by Deputy Secretary for Environment and Tourism in the politburo Auxilia Mnangagwa, wife to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The first part of the morning saw groups of students traversing the wetland area with guides, investigating the flora and fauna, and seeing the wetland function and properties first hand. Monavale Wetland, a Ramsar site, is a restored wetland and makes for an excellent case study of wetland areas. The recent heavy rain meant that the area was completely waterlogged, and those without gumboots got very wet and muddy, much to the students’ delight.
The school groups then retreated into the shade of a marquee for refreshments and to watch and participate in the presentations. Each group had prepared a short skit, poem, or song, and their solid understanding of the wetlands was abundantly clear.
“Driving here along the Bulawayo Road it was shocking to see what has happened to our wetlands,” said Bertha, one of the students who had a turn with the microphone. “How can we devote our wetlands to the building of malls?” she impassioned.
Nobody knows the Monavale Wetland better than scout Jimmy Muropa, who has been patrolling and protecting the wetland for a decade. He offered the audience hope, saying that “it is very possible to restore wetlands to their natural state.” During a quiz game, his often tricky questions to the students were met with a flurry of hands – an indication of the interest and knowledge of wetlands present in our schools.
It was the arrival of Auxilia Mnangagwa that caused the biggest stir however. The audience were not disappointed with her remarks, which reiterated all the sentiments expressed that day.
“The future of humanity depends on wetlands and not the other way round. The Environmental Management Agency, City of Harare and other responsible organisations should ensure they monitor activity in wetlands. We cannot continue ignoring the increasing rate of wetland degradation in Harare,” said Mnangagwa.
Speaking to the press after her rousing speech, Mnangagwa called on the police and other law enforcement agencies to take swift and severe action against “land barons who will destroy our wetlands.” She was emphatic that all development on wetlands is contrary to the law. “The conservation and restoration of wetlands must be a high priority,” said Mnangagwa.
Photo: EMA Spokesperson Steady Kangata and Deputy secretary for environment and tourism in the politburo Auxilia Mnangagwa after the event.