Encroachers ravage protected wetlands

24Feb 2021
The Guardian
Encroachers ravage protected wetlands

A KEY wetland protected by international conventions within Kilombero Valley is under threat due to unchecked human activity, an ecologist has declared.

Presenting a strategic view of the conservation and protection of water resources in nine basins countrywide here yesterday, Asukile Kajuni, an ecologist with GEO Network Ltd consulting firm, said that overgrazing, artisanal mining and agriculture are now commonplace within the Kilombero Valley Ramsar Site (KVRS).

A Ramsar site is a wetland area designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Kajuni described the area as immensely important to the nation and to the world due to its precious wetlands resources and ever-dependable rivers – enriching the soils and making the lands more fertile for agriculture.

He aired the need for the government to consult with other stakeholders so as to take swift action to control environmental degradation on the Kilombero catchment that supports a strong agricultural sector.

The valley connects to the largest block of the Eastern Arc Mountains, the Udzungwa, with the protected areas of Udzungwa Mountains National Park, Kilombero Nature Reserve, and Udzungwa Scarp Forest Nature Reserve.

The new challenges undermine the cohesion and capacity of the landscape to hold in place critical ecosystem outputs needed for sustaining biodiversity and local livelihoods, he stated.

Raising public awareness on environmental conservation and water resources management, tree planting and sustainable farming, plus strengthening the enforcement of environmental and water-related regulations are among checks that need to be in place, he elaborated.

“When we’re developing this plan in the Wami-Ruvu basin, we witnessed herds of livestock, uncontrolled farming and mining on river banks, a situation that increases siltation on water sources and rivers.

This poses a serious threat to people’s livelihoods downstream,” he said, urging effective measures to reverse the degradation.

Areas affected by overgrazing are Mofu village in Kilombero District, Mgeta in Mvomero District, where uncontrolled farming on hills has detrimental impact on Morogoro River that berths water moving into Ruvu River— the main source of water for Coast Region and the city of Dar es Salaam, he stated.

Kilosa District has been also affected, thus responsible authorities need to chip in to address the budding environmental crisis, he further stated.

Wami-Ruvu BasinWater Board (WRBWB) chairman Hamza Sadiki said: “We have decided to start assessing the damage to these water sources in order to come up with strategies to maintain those sources for the benefit of the present and future generations.”

The board had already identified the needs of various stakeholders in the water sector based on the present and future water use projections, proposing measures that if implemented will enable sustainable access to water.

Kilosa District Executive Director Asajile Mwambambale commended the Wami-Ruvu board for coming up with the plan involving various stakeholders to support the proper use of water resources in mining, agriculture and livestock rearing in the district.

If the program is sustainable and water use laws are enforced it will save water sources now at risk from various economic activities for the benefit of future generations, he stated.

Ezron Charles, Assistant Regional Administrative Secretary, said that implementing the plan will help the region to maintain water resources in the Wami Ruvu Basin to ensure water security for the present and future generations.

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