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Wetland Loss Worsened

JOHANNESBURG

Floods that have devastated Mozambique and caused extensive damage in neighboring countries have been exacerbated by the loss of vital wetlands, environmentalists said.

``Floods themselves are a natural occurrence... but the severity of them has been increased by poor land management,'' said David Lindley, a wetland ecologist with the Rennies Wetlands Project (RWP), a group that promotes wetland conservation outside protected areas.

Lindley and other conservationists say the serious erosion of wetlands and overgrazing of grasslands on the upper watersheds of the Limpopo river in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa channelled raging waters into its lower watersheds or catchments in Mozambique.

The result was a disaster which has killed at least several hundred people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Lindley said grasslands that are overgrazed or damaged by poor burning practices are hardened, enabling water to flow over the ground and into rivers instead of seeping into the soil.

Adding to the problem is the general shrinkage of wetland area as these absorb excess water.

``A wetland is a sponge which soaks up extra water and then releases it slowly into a watershed or river system. When you remove it, you remove this safety valve,'' said Richard Boon of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa.


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June 15, 2019, 10:28 pm PDT

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