This article assesses the legal and institutional framework around governance of wetlands and wetland-related ecosystem services in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe (member of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands). A mixed research methodology, comprising review of literature, interviews, document analysis, and Geographical Information Systems, forms the key methodology used in this study. Results from analyzed data show that lack of a clear and harmonized legal and institutional framework is leading the Harare’s wetlands to rapidly shrink and affecting their ability to provide key ecosystem services, such as clean water, flood protection, recreational areas, and wildlife. In addition, both overlapping roles and functions among the various institutions and legislations are responsible for wetland management in Harare. Key recommendation emerging from the study points to the need to define clear boundaries and harmonization of key legislations to promote the sustainability of wetlands in Harare.

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Wetlands are a special type of natural ecosystems which are seasonally or permanently saturated with water or where water is close to surface [1]. In Zimbabwe, wetlands (locally also known as “vleisordambos”) are defined as: “…areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including riparian land adjacent to the wetland [2].” Globally, wetlands accounts for 6% of the land surface although the wetlands have been deteriorating; close to 64% of the world’s wetlands have been lost between 1900 and 2008 [3]. Wetlands provide multiple ecosystem services [4, 5] which include flood control, filtration of waste from water, improvement of air quality, provision of livelihoods, and water for drinking [5]. Urban wetlands are often referred to as “kidneys of the landscape” because of the important hydrological and chemical functions they perform [6]. They are also often referred to as “biological supermarkets” due to the food webs and biodiversity they provide [7]. The roles wetlands play in supporting urban environment justifies the theme of the 2018 World Wetlands Day: Wetlands for a sustainable urban future: Urban Wetlands making cities livable.

Globally, recent decades have witnessed urban wetlands being threatened by urbanization. Nearly half of the world’s population moved to coastal and floodplain areas in the last century, urbanizing the neighborhoods of some of the world’s largest and most sensitive wetlands [8]. Some of the world’s largest cities and towns (e.g., Lagos, Washington DC, San Francisco, Kolkata, and Kampala) are wetland cities [8]. In this regard, wetlands have been greatly compromised by unsustainable practices undertaken in and around them [1, 5]. Some of these challenges are attributed to the increased contest for urban land which results in burning or draining of wetlands, infrastructure development, and dumping of waste on wetlands [9].

Harare, the capital city for Zimbabwe, was established on the headwaters of the Manyame and Gwebi Catchment basin, an area that is predominantly covered by wetlands. Harare has a large inventory of wetlands of which 26 were declared as protected areas. However, the gazette was withdrawn by government due to legal challenges mounted by private land owners and property developers. Key to note is that among them are three Ramsar sites: Monavale Vlei, Lake Chivero, and Cleveland Dam.

Wetlands in Harare are under immense pressure from land developers, urban farmers, industrial pollution, and climate change [10]. As a result, the surface area occupied by wetlands in the city continues to shrink, undermining the services they ought to be providing the city, particularly that of water. It is predicted that if Harare continues to degrade its wetlands, water scarcity is imminent [11, 12]. It is estimated that the City of Harare (CoH) is losing close to 20% of the city’s water storage capacity owing to interference with wetlands in the city [13]. Construction in the wetlands is also associated with increased incidences of flooding and deterioration of infrastructure, especially housing, raising concerns about the welfare of people living in affected houses [9, 14]. A notable example of gradual deterioration of Harare wetlands is Monavale Vlei which has been gradually shrinking due to housing development and urban agriculture. Figure 1 illustrates the gradual encroachment by urban development on Monavale Vlei between 2000 and 2014 (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1.

Gradual but persistent encroachment by urban development and agriculture on the Monavale Vlei, Harare, Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2014. Source: Google Images (2014).

FIGURE 1.

Gradual but persistent encroachment by urban development and agriculture on the Monavale Vlei, Harare, Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2014. Source: Google Images (2014).

By 2000, the Monavale Vlei had lost a significant part of the original surface area occupied by wetland ecosystems due to commercial horticulture and illegal dumping, with most of the change occurring between 2010 and 2014. Between 2000 and 2014, 7% more of the wetland area was converted into residential developments. Disturbance has been minimal in the western part of the vlei, owing to the lobbying by Conservation Society of Monavale (COSMO).

Degradation of the wetlands has continued in all suburbs across the city, a result of housing construction occurring in all residential suburbs, of all income levels [15]. Provisioning services such as underground water supply have been greatly compromised for Harare owing to the continued housing constructions and subsequent degradation of wetlands in the city [15]. For example, Monavale Vlei has been home to various plants and animal species which include over 200 species of birds, yet these are now fast disappearing [16]. A combination of both wetlands loss and recently acknowledged effects of climate change have been largely blamed for chronic water shortages in Harare [17]. Moreover, wetland degradation affects the quality of life of all citizens in Harare, albeit differently: the poor end up getting less provisioning services from the wetlands while the rich have to do without biodiversity-dependent recreational services such as bird- and wildlife watching [15]. A key indicator of biodiversity loss associated with wetland degradation in Harare is low citation of certain species of flora and fauna which used to be common. These include large mammals such as Serval (Felis serval) and Reedbuck (Redunca arundium) which used to be commonly sighted in Marlborough and Monavale Vleis [16].

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

The evaluation of the governance system for this study is informed by Hongxing and Fawen’s conceptual framework [18]. The framework is premised on three critical components which are closely connected, and these are the Sustainable management of wetland ecosystems (Policies and Legislations), livelihood improvement, and wetland ecosystem services. Their framework helps to explain the dynamics of wetland management in urban spaces, emphasises the importance of having, and applying appropriate policies and legislation for regulating wetland use to achieve the objectives of sustainable management of wetland ecosystems. Sustainable policies and management practices can position wetlands to provide all types of services, from habitat for a wide range of biodiversity to pollution control, maintenance of hydrological regimes, recreational and spiritual benefits, and water provision [4]. Subsequently, when these services are made available in the quantity and quality required, the livelihoods of urbanites are improved.

Given the characteristics of wetlands as common goods, their sustainable management can be particularly challenging and the risk for entering into a “tragedy of the commons” [19, 20] situation is high. The concept of the tragedy of the commons, used first by British economist William Forster Lloyd in 1833 and revived by Garret Hardin in 1968, is premised on the notion that individuals seeking to maximize benefits from the utilization of a shared resource (usually common property, such as wetlands, which everyone might have free access to) do so in self-interest and at the detriment of the resource and of the welfare of other users who are perceived as competitors. The tragedy is oftentimes fueled by the absence of regulation or regulations not being exercised which results in individuals overexploiting the resource so as to maximize their own benefits [20].

Guiding Principles for Managing Wetlands

In response to Hardin’s version of the tragedy of the commons phenomenon, Ostrom offers eight “Principles for managing the commons” (Box 1) [21]. From worldwide application and testing of Ostrom’s principles in the field, it emerges that the most effective institutions at managing the commons are those that exercise clear “rules of the game” and which sanction offenders. Participation of resource users in decision-making, especially when formulating the rules, is critical in successful resources management [22].

Box 1

Principles for Managing Commons [21].

  1. Define clear group boundaries

  2. Match rules governing the use of common goods to local needs and conditions.

  3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.

  4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.

  5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behaviour.

  6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.

  7. Provide accessible, low cost means for dispute resolution.

  8. Build responsibility for governing the common resources in nested tiers

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY

A mixed method research design was adopted to consolidate the information needed to develop a comprehensive understanding of the governance system in Zimbabwe and its implications for wetlands sustainability, and the choice was decided upon based on previous similar studies [9, 10, 23]. Documents produced by various sources, including the government, addressing wetland governance were reviewed and analyzed. The documents that informed the study include The Constitution of Zimbabwe (CoZ) Amendment No. 20 of 2013, National Water Policy (NWP) of 2013, Environmental Management Act (EM Act) [Chapter 20: 27], The Water Act [Chapter 20: 24], The Regional, Town and Country Planning Act [Chapter 29: 12] (RTCP), and Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29: 15] (UCA). The review considered information pertaining to the use and management of wetlands. Content analysis was then used to analyze the information from the document review. We applied remote sensing techniques to determine the extent of wetland loss over the periods 2000–2014. This period was chosen due to the fact that 2000–2010 is considered as the lost decade in Zimbabwe while 2010–2014 was characterized as a recovery phase following the Government of National Unity. Structured in-depth interviews were held with key informants to collect information on the governance system used in different situations. Key informants were selected from the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate (MEWC), local authorities, environmental management officers, community leaders, and civic organizations. The precise questions that were posed to key informants are included in Appendices 1–3 in the Supplemental Material.

RESULTS

Policies and Legislations on Wetland Management in Zimbabwe

Relevant International Multilateral Environmental Agreements Affecting Zimbabwe’s Wetlands Zimbabwe is a signatory to a number of international policies and multilateral environmental conventions related to wetlands. These include: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) with its Aichi Targets, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Montreal Protocol. The most relevant conventions to wetlands in Harare are the Ramsar Convention, CBD with its Aichi Biodiversity Targets (ABT), and SDGs.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (more commonly known as the “Ramsar Convention”) was adopted in Ramsar, Iran on 2 February 1971 and entered into force in 1975 [24]. However, Zimbabwe only ratified the convention on 3 May 2013 and currently, Zimbabwe has seven sites designated as Ramsar Sites, with a surface area of 453,828. A wetland is considered to be of international importance if it is primarily a habitat for water birds and if they are vital for biodiversity conservation and for the well-being of human communities [25]. Considering the abundant species of flora and fauna found in the Monavale Vlei, it is thus a wetland of international importance [16]. It takes into account the various conditions and nature of wetlands around the world with the view to monitor the state of the wetlands as well as the ecosystem services that they provide [24]. Monitoring is achieved through “enlisting” wetlands and monitoring their boundaries and changes over time [25]. Wetland Conferences are convened to share information and experiences on the wise use of wetlands which is subsequently shared and disseminated among member states [24]. The Environmental Management Agency is responsible for localizing the provisions of the Ramsar Convention in Zimbabwe, and they partner with some civic organizations to ensure that such wetlands are well managed [16].

The CBD was adopted by global leaders in 1993 as a convention focusing on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. The convention covers all levels of biodiversity as it includes possible domains that are directly or indirectly related to biodiversity. Considering the biodiversity that is related with wetlands, the CBD is an important convention in the wise use of wetlands. In 2010, the ABT was set with the view to conserving biodiversity. From the 20 targets of the ABT, target 14 is especially relevant for the wise use of wetlands as it envisages that by 2020 ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods, and well-being are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities, and the poor and vulnerable [26].

Considering that Zimbabwe is a signatory to the SDGs, the management of wetlands is also informed by these goals. The conservation of wetlands is considered as a great milestone in achieving the SDGs [27]. The relevant SDGs that relate with the wetlands are Goal 2 which envisages ending all forms of poverty and hunger by 2030, goal 6 focusing on water supply issues, and goal 11 on the creation of sustainable human settlements [28]. It is lucid that the management and conservation of the wetlands greatly contribute to the attainment of the SGDs.

National Policies and Legislations on Wetlands The CoZ Amendment No. 20 of 2013 is the supreme law in Zimbabwe and one of the statutory instruments regulating wetland management. Section 73 of CoZ stipulates that every person has environmental rights, which are protected through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation, promote conservation, and secure ecologically sustainable development [29]. Section 73, without specifically referring to wetlands, regards all natural resources to be part of the environment; does not address issues of responsibilities associated with wetlands use and management. The CoZ also outlines the need for access to potable water thus indirectly recognizing the important role of wetlands in supply and regulating the flow and quality of potable water. Governance is addressed in Section 9 of CoZ which mandates the State to adopt and implement policies and legislation that promote efficiency, competency, and transparency in all government institutions and agencies [29].

Zimbabwe’s NWP of 2013 provides guidelines on the management and development of water resources [30]. The policy clarifies institutional functions, responsibilities, and accountability regarding planning and management of water resources, including wetlands. In addition, the policy sets measures that protect high-value ecosystems and in this case, wetlands [30]. The policy provides the MEWC the primary responsibility to plan, develop, and manage water resources in the country. Just like the Water Act, the NWP recognizes all water as a state resource, i.e., as a common resource that cannot be privatized.

The Environmental Management Act (EM Act) [Chapter 20:27] promote sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment. Section 113(1) directly states that:

“The Minister may declare any wetland to be an ecologically sensitive area and may impose limitations on development in or around such area.”

This section empowers the Minister of MEWC to decide on the use of certain wetlands indicating that the decision of the Minister is usually final and legitimate. Section 113(2) profiles the activities which shall not be undertaken in wetlands and these include reclaiming or draining wetlands; disturbing wetlands in a way that degrades them, and introducing alien flora and fauna into wetland ecosystems. Subsequently, section 113(3) provides for the measures to be undertaken for those who contravene subsection 113(2). Such measures align with Ostrom’s Principle No. 6 (2005), which highlights the need for establishing regulated sanctions for violators of the rules [23]. The act encourages sustainable utilization of wetland resources by incorporating the public in the use and conservation of wetlands [31] (Ostrom Principle No. 2).

The Water Act [Chapter 20: 24] promotes the development, sustainable, and equitable utilization of water resources in Zimbabwe. Any person who wishes to conduct operations which will interfere with any part of wetlands forming the source or found along the course of a public stream shall apply to the catchment council for a permit. Section 3 vests all power over water resources in the President, while Section 4 forbids private ownership of water. Section 67 aspires that water management is consistent with sustainable environmental management goals. Section 67(2) (a–b) highlights the need to ensure protection, conservation, and sustenance of the environment, as well as the right of access by members of the public to places of leisure or natural beauty related to water or water bodies. In addition, the act acknowledges that members of the public must have access to cultural ecosystem services provided by wetlands.

The RTCP Act [Chapter 29: 12] guides and controls any form of planning and development in the country. The RTCP’s objective is to plan infrastructure and other development with the object of conserving and improving the physical environment so as to promote health, safety, order, amenity, convenience, and general welfare. The Act provides for the protection of urban and rural amenities and the preservation of buildings and trees. Thus, indirectly, it stipulates that urban wetlands are part of the urban form and structure and forms part of its green and brown infrastructure. The RTCP Act Section 31 states that the local planning authority has the responsibility to serve the owner of the land with a preservation order of forests, water sources, and woodlands within its area of jurisdiction.

Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29: 15] provides for the administration of municipalities and towns through vesting powers in the local authorities. Section 181 empowers local authorities to control public streams by granting water rights and authority within the council’s area. Section 198 stipulates the general functions of the council, which includes determining the developments commensurate to a particular area. As one key informant from the CoH said during an in-depth interview, this Act legitimizes the management of wetlands by the CoH. The Act does not refer to use and management of wetlands. Apart from the mention of public streams, the act does not specifically refer to wetlands.

Institutions Governing and Managing Urban Wetlands in Zimbabwe

The MEWC is responsible for the environment including the management of wetlands. MEWC aligns its goals and objectives with the provisions of the Ramsar Convention of 1971. Management of wetlands is mandated to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which is responsible for promoting best practices in environmental and resources management. To fulfill its mandate, the department plans, formulates, reviews, and coordinates policy with a view to achieving sustainable development. The department’s environmental mandate also includes wetland conservation. One official from the ministry confirmed this with this statement:

“This Ministry is interested in the sustainability of wetland ecosystem services and tries to formulate policies that integrate these ecosystems so that they are effectively utilised to alleviate problems such as food shortages, stabilize climate as well as promoting tourism.”

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is the statutory body responsible for sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment in Zimbabwe. In relation to wetland governance, EMA implements environmental policies, promotes wise use of wetlands, and provides environmental awareness campaigns, education, and training. In undertaking its mandates, EMA is obliged to maintain its core values which include transparency, professionalism and stakeholder participation. The mandate of EMA shows that EMA engages the public in their activities which implies good governance as argued by Tsang et al (2009) [22]. Public awareness campaigns to educate the public and inform them of the importance of wetlands have been widely exercised by EMA across the country. Environmental Impact Assessments are used to monitor the feasibility of proposed development and the same applies to any developments that are proposed in wetlands.

The CoH is responsible for governing the development in Harare. Through local development plans, CoH determines the land uses which may be approved in the city. The council is mandated to conserve the environment, and this is usually achieved through reserving specific sites (e.g., wetlands) as open spaces protected from further development projects. The CoH has been more supportive of efforts aimed at preserving wetlands justifying their change of position by pointing out that they are the major source of water for the city [12].

The Harare Wetland Trust, the COSMO, and BirdLife International are some prominent civic environmental organizations responsible for the conservation and management of some wetlands in Harare. COSMO was instrumental in the conservation of the entire Monavale Vlei, which was under serious threat from housing development since 2000. It was through lobbying by COSMO that Monavale Vlei was subsequently enlisted as Ramsar Site 2107 in 2013 [32]. Likewise, BirdLife International advocates for the wise use of wetlands in Harare. These civic organizations raise awareness on the importance of wetlands in urban environments. They also actively manage the wetland ecosystem by removing alien plants.

Analysis of the Effectiveness of Existing Policies and Legislation on Wetland Status and Trends

From the findings of the study, we found that various legislative frameworks and institutions regulating wetland management exist in Zimbabwe but give very little acknowledgment to wetlands and when so, it remains only in theory. The major flaw with the legislation is that at times it seems to be fragmented and does not explicitly refer to the management of wetlands with the exception of the EMA Act. This fragmentation brings ambiguity with regards the responsibility of wetlands conservation and management. An official from COSMO had this to say in relation to localizing regulatory and management frameworks for wetland ecosystems:

“… if wetland services are to be sustained there is an inherent need to decentralise decision-making processes and the institutions that manage and regulate the use of the wetlands and the services they provide. It is mostly the people that are in direct contact with the wetlands who know best the utility of the wetland ecosystems. Hence, the need to consider their views in relation to ecosystem services provided by the wetlands.”

The statement implies that decisions concerning wetlands and related ecosystem services have to be decentralized rather than centralized. It is at this point where, in addition, decentralizing management efforts will also promote accountability and transparency in relation to utilization and management of wetland ecosystem services.

In practice, rules and existing sanctions around the Harare wetlands are selectively applied, corruption is rampant, and the needs of the citizens are stifled by current politics. Consequently, power dynamics and the ability of some to escape sanctions hinder sustainable management. Elite capture and clientelism has also been at the helm of rendering some rules toward conserving wetlands in Harare to be ineffective. For example, the former Zimbabwean President, some of his Ministers, and some politicians have been fingered in controversial and contested developments on wetlands [33]. The existence of rules as outlined in the fourth principle by Ostrom is clearly insufficient; they are rendered inconsequential if they are not applied uniformly to all offenders [33]. Furthermore, the rules are best adhered to if they are co-developed and constructed with resource users as stipulated in the second principle by Ostrom.

The CoH and the GoZ are not doing a good job of governing the wetlands in Harare. According to the laws and policies listed—on paper—everything looks pretty good. But there are “flaws and inconsistencies” and that “policies and some statutes falter as policymakers miss the key variable which is the voice of some stakeholders at the grassroots level”. Such was the case with the Long Cheng Plaza which was contested by EMA [10]. However, despite such contestations, the development of the mall was undertaken on the wetland mainly due to political intervention. This raises questions with regards to the legitimacy of EMA, as it failed to stop such a development. The question that remains unanswered is: whose interests does EMA serve? This is so because in the “old Zimbabwe” EMA was over-ridden for economic and political gains; hence it is interesting to see if this situation will continue in the “new Zimbabwe”?

Zimbabwe is also a signatory to the Ramsar Convention and various other international conventions such as CITES. Aichi target 14 CBD because Harare’s wetland biodiversity plays a very important role in the functioning of these wetlands. The 2015 CBD report for Zimbabwe highlights that there have been some remarkable progress toward achieving the targets of ABT although there have been some drawbacks due to stress on natural resources, lack of environmental awareness, rapid urbanization, and limited livelihood options [34]. In this regard, being signatory to the Ramsar Convention and ABT has to some extent been instrumental in conservation of wetlands in Harare. It can be deduced that local civic conservation organizations seem to have at least staved off immediate development. To some extent, the civic organizations have been successful in managing wetlands in Harare considering the case of Monavale Vlei. However, the main problem is that the management of wetlands in Harare remains centralized as Ministers and politicians usually have the final say, a clear example is the developments on Belvedere and Borrowdale Vlei.

The CoH has high ambitions, but economic pressure wins when it comes to wetlands conservation. This was elaborated on further by an official from CoH who explained the following:

“Our mandate is to conserve the environment when planning and designing the city. We try, by all means, to conserve wetlands by leaving them in their natural state. This is observed in the local development plans of the city where you can see that all the major wetlands were zoned as areas not to be developed. However, despite such efforts to conserve wetlands in the city, there are some political and economic factors that are now compromising our efforts. Moreover, rapid urbanisation in the city has compelled the council to permit development in some of these wetlands.”

From the foregoing quote, we deduce that in as much as the local authority feels the need to conserve wetlands, there are instances when they are rendered powerless owing to political interference in their mandates. Moreover, the pressure from urban growth has also increased the need for more land for urban development, and this has resulted in wetlands being sacrificed.

DISCUSSION

Harare is a wetland city, yet its wetlands are under immense pressure, and their present and future sustainability is highly compromised. Top among the threats to wetlands in Harare is the encroachment by infrastructure development, and urban population growth, which may contain some aspect of urbanization (rural to urban migration) but also contains intrinsic population growth of cities. This is not unique to Zimbabwe; many other global wetland cities are experiencing destruction and deterioration [1, 8]. Our review of existing policies and legislation governing wetlands in Zimbabwe and our analysis of their effectiveness suggest that four key interrelated factors contribute to the status quo of wetlands in Harare (Figure 2): weak environmental institutions, strong power dynamics, political interference, and a critical shortage of local and national wetland scientists and trained wetland managers.

FIGURE 2.

Management of Wetlands in Harare. Authors’ Creation (2018).

FIGURE 2.

Management of Wetlands in Harare. Authors’ Creation (2018).

Although more than eight national and international conventions, policies, and legislations exist governing wetlands in Zimbabwe in some shape or form, on-going degradation of Ramsar sites in Harare suggest that most (if not all) of these institutional efforts sum up to puppet legislations and policies: formalities that serve to validate a superficial rather than a real concern for wetland preservation. Yet, an analysis of the provisions of these institutions and legislations seem to show that they are sound and detailed [29, 30]. To a large extent, at their core, many of them align with Ostrom’s management principles. Specifically, their very existence demonstrates that there are rules and regulations. The rules contain sanctioning of offenders, for example, through environmental fines; they define clear boundaries of how wetlands can be used; they encourage citizen participation in wetland management; and do—to a wide extent—match wetland use to local needs and conditions. However, the outcomes for Harare’s wetlands are highly divergent from what one would expect with such “sound” policy and legislation. These contradictions raise important questions about what else is needed to achieve sustainable management, not only of wetlands, but of common pool resources more generally. Ostrom’s principles provide a useful framework for reflecting upon the combinations of factors necessary for successful commons management.

A critical characteristic of Ostrom’s principles is that they need to be very locally applied for management to be successful. Weak environmental institutions are thus a key primary factor inhibiting good governance of Harare’s wetlands (Figure 2). Moreover, Zimbabwe’s highly centralized form of government limits the ability of those living in and around the wetlands to determine the rules, decide on their use, and to exercise sanctions. In the case of Harare, existing rules are delivered from the top-down: they are embedded in national and city legislations that were not conjointly developed. Direct wetland users were probably not consulted. Their commitment to those rules is determined by how comfortable they feel contradicting them, and this is a function of how vulnerable or powerful they perceive themselves to be to sanctioning bodies. Large developers who can lobby or bribe their way through the rules can thus, escape sanctions.

The management of wetlands in Harare is compromised by a multiplicity of factors which include issues of tenure, climate change, and institutional dynamics which have rendered conservation practices ineffective. This confirms the argument by Olsen et al. that governance at national level is complex and is marred by overlapping issues between ministries and departments [35].

Other Contributing Factors Affecting Wetland Conservation [Unrelated to Ostrom’s Principles] The absence of a policy that specifically addresses wetlands and which could guide wetland management in urban areas is partially a result of the fact that few studies and incomprehensive research is conducted on the subject of wetland management in Zimbabwe. In this regard, there is critical shortage of suitably trained and qualified wetland scientists and managers who can operationalize the policies into on-the-ground management [36]. Such policies, when in existence, can drastically improve the effectiveness of urban wetland management, such as demonstrated by the case of the Nakivubo wetlands in Kampala, Uganda.

The governance of wetlands in Harare is a contested issue which is characterized by political interference and state dominance in decision-making. Therefore, the governance system for wetland management and conservation fails to embrace and localize the international conventions, which then stifles the success of the localization of the initiatives. It also emerges that the biggest problem revolves around the power dynamics and lack of policy frameworks and implementation that guide the use and preservation of wetland ecosystems [37, 38]. The various governmental ministries and organizations dealing with environmental issues seem to be suffering from power dynamics issues as political elites seem to have the last say on the fate of wetlands (Figure 2). Gramsci’s statement of power dynamics states that politics rules forcefully while the civil society rules based on consent but, when looking at the real issues on the ground, civil society is playing subservient role to the politics of the time, in most case scenarios [39, 40, 41].

Today, governance-related issues with respect to the environment and wetlands are a complex subject [37]. Zimbabwe is not an exception; it lacks formal policies or statutes focusing on wetlands [9]. Inadequate policies jeopardize the sustainability of ecosystem services provided by wetlands as there seem to be a lack of transparency, legitimacy, or accountability in relation to the use and management of wetlands [10]. Overall, the ultimate goal is to stifle the persisting degradation and loss of wetlands in the country.

CONCLUSION, POLICY DIRECTIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS

This case study demonstrates how sound policies and legislation do not necessarily lead to successful management of natural resources and they can be rendered inconsequential (and even obsolete) if they are not backed by strong environmental institutions that can exercise the “rules of the game”, apply sanctions uniformly across offenders, and curb power dynamics and political interference in decision-making. Harare’s wetlands are embroiled in a complex matrix consisting of dysfunctional policies and legislations which all complicate the set objectives of attaining wetland sustainability. International treaties ratified by the Government of Zimbabwe to protect wetland areas, carry little, if any weight, questioning their meaningfulness and effectiveness not only in Zimbabwe, but anywhere else with somewhat similar conditions. Top-down determination of rules and exclusion of those who live closest to the resource, and who depend on it the most, from deciding what the rules should be has created a perfect storm for a “tragedy of the commons” situation, just as Hardin [20] describes it.

To reverse current trends of gradual and persistent reduction of wetland area in Harare and degradation of its ecosystem service functions, drastic changes to the existing governance system is required. Our findings and analysis lead us to make the following recommendations for wetlands management in Harare:

  1. Harmonization of legislations that contribute to conflicts between institutions and which are contradictory in terms of what they permit in wetlands.

  2. Formulation of a single policy or legislation that specifically addresses wetlands and the ecosystem services they provide. Such a policy would be the “go-to” point for all wetland related issues and would preside over any other policies that directly or indirectly address wetlands.

  3. Integration of wetlands in land use planning such that wetlands are preserved and recreational activities in wetlands are restricted to running, walking, bird watching, and enjoyment of the open spaces (i.e., no motorboats or draining to covert to other uses). This would allow most other wetland ecosystem functions to be maintained.

For these recommendations to bear fruit, however, more coordinated collaboration is needed among local stakeholders interested in conserving Harare’s wetlands and better science is needed to generate the economic and environmental justifications for their conservation. Ecosystem service valuation studies will, undoubtedly, reveal that Harare’s city wetlands are probably one of its most valued natural assets and that the future cost to the city and her residents for obtaining clean water and avoiding flooding are monumental compared to the cost of conservation.

CASE STUDY QUESTIONS

  1. Discuss the role played by any three selected institutions in Zimbabwe in the management of wetlands in the country.

  2. In your opinion, how would you justify the assertion that, “the signing of the Ramsar Convention by the Zimbabwean Government is a little step toward a big end”?

  3. “Setting the access related and geographical boundaries should be the first step for better management of Harare wetlands.” React.

  4. Explain how you would go about discouraging people in your area who are degrading wetlands in the local area.

  5. Write a one-page letter to the Mayor of Harare, explaining how a wetlands’ management committee must be set and how the same committee should delineate and proffer solutions to the land-use issues in the city.

AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS

Conceptualization ARM; IC; BBM 
Data curation ARM; IC; BBM; PK; MM 
Formal analysis ARM; IC; BBM 
Study administration ARM 
Investigation ARM; IC; BBM; PK; MM 
Methodology ARM; IC 
Validation IC; BBM 
Writing—original draft ARM; IC;PK; MM 
Writing—review and editing ARM; IC; BBM 
Conceptualization ARM; IC; BBM 
Data curation ARM; IC; BBM; PK; MM 
Formal analysis ARM; IC; BBM 
Study administration ARM 
Investigation ARM; IC; BBM; PK; MM 
Methodology ARM; IC 
Validation IC; BBM 
Writing—original draft ARM; IC;PK; MM 
Writing—review and editing ARM; IC; BBM 

COMPETING INTERESTS

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIALS

Appendices 1–3. List of Questions.docx.

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