SCHOOLS in the Edendale area that are situated on or near a wetland, commemorated World Wetland Day at the Edendale Mall last Friday.
The mall is situated on the only fully functional and healthy wetland in Edendale, out of the 40 that are in the area.
Thirty pupils from each of the schools learnt about the importance of wetlands in the environmental cycle.
Mlungisi Mtungwa from the non-profit organisation Liberty, which focuses on environmental issues, specifically wetlands and river health, said: “Wetlands are one of the important arteries in the water system.”
He said the organisation is in the early stages of rehabilitating a wetland where Zamazulu Secondary is situated.
More than just being vital ducts in a system of rivers, wetlands help reduce the eventuality of floods and the reduction of heat levels brought on by climate change, Mtungwa added.
“The biggest challenge when it comes to the protection of wetlands is pollution or litter and people building on wetlands,” he said.
Last year, the Echo published a story titled “Houses built in a non-residential area”, which reported on the property being built in KwaMachibisa, Ward 22, behind Mthethomusha Primary, an area which is a wetland.
Mbali Kubheka from the National Department of Environmental Affairs said she works in the department’s programme called Working for Wetlands.
“One of the awareness campaigns we run addresses councillors, leaders and traditional leaders, to make them aware about the importance of wetlands, especially traditional leaders who have the authority to apportion land to people,” she said.
Khubeka said the significance of the schools’ commemoration is that pupils would learn at a young age about the importance of wetlands and so grow up to become elders and leaders who would be better informed and so play a role in the preservation of such areas.
“We want these schools to go back and adopt a wetland or a section of a river nearest to the school and play a role in cleaning up that area if it is polluted, or protect it,” she said.
Sonya Coldacotte said the commemoration at the mall was the result of a collaboration between Liberty and the shopping centre.
“We want to expose the community to the knowledge about wetlands and why it is critical to rehabilitate the ones that have been damaged,” she said.
Various stakeholders attended the commemorations, including representatives from the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust (Duct), the Institute of National Research, Ground Truth and Umgeni Water, to name a few.