Let’s save our wetlands

BY THANDO CEZULA - SEPTEMBER 8, 2015

The on-going degradation of wetlands in the Mbizana area have forced WSU third-year Environmental Sciences student Fikile Xaki to pursue scientific-based solutions in order to reverse the negative trend.

Having lived in the area, 23-year-old Xaki chose to assess the impact of development on these natural wonders on the Highland View wetland as part of her Honours degree research project.

“I chose this topic because of the adverse effects on-going development is currently having on the environment. I also saw how people were suffering because of settling in these areas since these places aren’t really conducive for human settlement,” said Xaki.

Groundwater discharge in houses and solid waste disposal on the wetlands have emerged as two of the major challenges for both the community and the environment during the settlement developments.

She says government needs to start taking into account the environmental and ecological repercussions that stand ready to threaten people’s livelihoods and the environment in the wake of haphazard development.

“I understand that government is under pressure to deliver on its mandate to build houses, but they shouldn’t do it at the expense of the environment. This is also detrimental to their cause because they now, in the long run, incur the costs of having to reverse the effects of nature versus development,” says Xaki.

She says signs and billboards are simply not enough to curb the rot – messages that prove ineffective in some cases because of the high illiteracy rate in the area.

Xaki says policy developers and executors must lead the charge in making political decisions that will legitimise the need for environmental preservation to rein supreme in the wake of settlement development.

“Government, civil society, traditional leaders, and others need to make a concerted effort to work together with our municipalities and communities in order to make sure they understand and appreciate the value of wetlands,” she says.

According to Xaki, wetlands are critical in mitigating flood damage because of their high water retention rate; providing grazing for livestock; filtering of excess nutrients in plants; and supporting biodiversity.