Biological diversity can be described as the infinite variety of living organisms: plants, animals, insects, fungi, and so on. These diverse organisms are supported by different habitats and together they form ecological systems which are also numerous and varied. The vleis of Harare are a continuous wetland ecological system with Monavale Vlei being a pristine part of this system.
Brief background of Monavale Vlei
Since 2001, The Conservation Society of Monavale Trust, COSMO, and Monavale residents have been working strenuously to protect Monavale Vlei, together with BirdLife Zimbabwe, non government organizations, national and local government authorities. COSMO continues to influence national and local government authorities to protect all the remaining wetlands and open spaces of Harare. Greater Harare is built in its water catchment basin and this severely restricts its water supply due to the impact on the wetlands from development, urban agriculture and pollution.
Only by preserving our city's wetlands and open spaces, will we be able to enhance our water supply, which is now inadequate, and safeguard against our own and our children's survival.
Monavale Vlei's wetland biodiversity
Monavale Vlei is an intact remnant of Harare's much threatened seasonally inundated grassland / wetland ecosystem. Without these spongy, water retaining and filtering open spaces, there can be no streams, rivers, dams and other wetland areas, in other words, no wetlands, no water.
These vleis are amongst the most biodiverse areas on Earth, and Monavale Vlei is especially rich in grasses, sedges, forbs, riverine vegetation, as well as mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles, crustaceans, insects and other organisms which are adapted to this habitat. Monavale Vlei is known worldwide in ornithological circles as an important site for the secretive migrant Crakes and Rails to breed. These birds are they are dependent upon the seasonal inundation of these vleis and the fine open grasses to provide the correct breeding habitat. They are an indicator of the health of the wetlands.
Trees do not naturally occur in these wet grasslands, but are found where there has been disturbance from urban agriculture, which causes loss of wetland function. Trees dry up wetlands so tree growth in these seasonally inundated grasslands should not be encouraged.
Wetlands are significant in that they provide improved water quality, habitats for fish to spawn and for wildlife, protection from high floods, they safeguard against droughts and provide for recreational and aesthetic appreciation. Plants and soils in wetlands together play a large role in purifying water by removing high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous and other toxic chemicals. Therefore in some instances wetlands and their surroundings are more economical than building more expensive treatment plants. Wetlands also act as a 'sponge' in times of high floods by soaking up the huge volumes of water that would otherwise flow off into storm drains during high rainfall. This storage facility is critical and is lost if wetlands are disturbed. Wetland store more carbon than trees do and so they mitigate the effects of climate change. If disturbed carbon is released thus contributing to the negative effects of CC.
It is therefore vital to preserve our wetlands. They offer a huge economic saving and will serve us far better if we leave them in pristine condition.
Where are the Wetlands? Almost all open green spaces in Greater Harare are vleis or wetlands. These form the fragile headwaters of the Manyame / Marimba / Gwebi catchment basin, upon which the city is built. This basin is the only water source for half the population of Zimbabwe. The water supply is downstream Harare, so its important to keep the wetlands intact.
What vital functions do intact Wetlands perform? These bio-diverse wetlands are nutural water reservoirs. They re-charge the water table, filter and purify the water, prevent erosion, siltation and flooding. Undisturbed wetlands act as carbon sinks, re-supply rivers and streams, and save ratepayers money, by providing a natural water purification service.
What are the threats to our Wetlands?
The threats to our wetlands are development, informal agriculture, loss of bio diversity, excessive use of fertiliser, industrial/domestic pollution and the extensive use of commercial boreholes. Over the past 15 years Harare's water table has dropped an average of 15m - 30m, water flow into Lake Chivero has decreased significantly and the pollution levels have dramatically iincreased resulting in greatly increased purification costs.
How can Harare residents help the authorities save the wetlands and guarantee water for the future? Each one of us must become a watchdog by questioning any development in our area. Report dumping of waste and industrial pollution, digging and removal of topsoil and river sand and lobby your councillor to prohibit informal agriculture on wetlands. Useful contacts are:
For pollution and dumping, contact City of Harare Waste Management: Mr Chibanda on 770362/752637 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Mr Muzah email@example.com
For uncontrolled commercial boreholes, contact city works: Mr P M Pfukwa on 772453/791101 or 700087 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For development in wetlands, tree cutting, sand and soil removal, contact Environmental Management Agency (EMA): Mr S. Kangata on 705661-3 or toll free 0800 4297 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
For any of the above concerns, contact your local councillor or District Officer.
Welcome to the Conservation Society of Monavale - Working to Save Harare's Wetlands
What is the Conservation Society of Monavale (COSMO) all about?
COSMO (constituted in 2005) grew out of the Monavale Residents' Environmental Action Group (formed in 2001) which was intent upon preventing development and degradation on Monavale Vlei, an important wetland of outstanding natural beauty and enormous biodiversity.
" COSMO acts as the Site Support Group, amongst other roles, for the Monavale Vlei Biodiversity Project - the result of the Management Workshop held in October 2006. This Project aims to protect the fauna and flora as well as restore the Vlei to its former state, as far as is possible, thus saving a remnant of a once intact system of seasonally flooded wetlands. Educating the public at large about the value of wetlands and natural areas is one of its objectives. The Project networks with stakeholders such as Bird Life Zimbabwe, Environment Africa, City of Harare, Ministry of Environment and Tourism's Environmental Management Agency, ZRP and surrounding communities.
" COSMO also works with the Monavale community in the following areas:
o Prevents dumping and organizes cleanups
o HIV / Aids awareness workshops are held
o Nutritional / herb gardening is taught
o COSMO Kids Club - the children love to learn about the Vlei, the environment and social responsibilities at the weekly gatherings
o Takes school children and college students for environmental walks on the Vlei
o Manages a Security Patrol Scheme
o Holds bi-monthly community meetings
o Conducts a natural history walk on the Vlei every third Sunday of the month at 7am. Meet on Fenella Drive. All welcome