ALARMED with the continued destruction of wetlands in Harare, some residents have started coordinating a petition to urge the Government to preserve the capital city’s wetlands.
The petition is being coordinated on virtual residents’ groups after Mr Leslie Musikavanhu initiated the process. Resident have been signing the petition and sharing it in their groups so more signatures can be appended to the document to be presented to the Environment Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu.
“Our wetlands (vleis, matoro, mapani) soak up water, during the rainy season, and prevent flooding in our built up areas. They then release it slowly, into the river system, after the rains are gone. At the same time, they act as natural filters for our surface water that ends up in our boreholes, rivers, and dams,” reads a message being circulated in residents’ groups encouraging them to sign the petition.
Proponents of the petition argue that the capital city is facing a huge environmental disaster if the destruction of wetlands is not halted.
“One of the major Harare wetlands, in Borrowdale West, is the source of most of the rivers in Harare. If we build on this, we risk causing irreparable damage to this vital green lung and the water systems that it services. We need to take better care of our environs and build wisely, responsibly, and greener, for a more sustainable future for our beloved city.
“The recent flooding in the Chitungwiza and Seke areas is an example of what happens when we build on wetlands. The contamination of Lake Chivero water where the City gets its water from is another. This puts a heavy burden on the already scarce City funds as they are diverted to fix problems that we create. Help us to protect all the wetlands in Harare and avert a desert of a disaster.
Please sign Leslie Musikavanhu’s noble petition if you have not already done so. After you sign, please share the petition with all other conscientious people you know and ask them to please sign as well, and keep spreading the clarion call,” further reads the message.
Residents said there was need for better care for Harare’s wetlands and developers should build with care. They suggested that the Borrowdale West wetland could possibly be made into an eco-tourism park.
“We need to take better care of our environs and build responsibly, and greener, for a more sustainable future for our beloved city.
“Maybe converting this into an Eco Tourism Park would be a responsible use for this valuable piece of land on our catchment basin for rivers in all directions around Harare. Help us to protect all the wetlands in Harare,” states the message.
This week the Combined Harare Residents Association and the Community Water Alliance expressed concern over building taking place on a wetland on the Cleveland Dam catchment but the developers argue the site is not a wetland.
The two organisations said construction was continuing on the site even after the developers had been issued with an Environmental Protection Order by the Environmental Management Agency.
They expressed grave concern over the development saying construction will adversely affect water delivery and disaster preparedness plans against flooding as the 2021-2022 rain season approaches.
“We the organisations here present, united as a coalition working towards wetlands preservation in the Harare Metropolitan Province, (are) outraged by the disregard of the newly gazetted Harare Wetlands Map, maintaining that the destruction of wetlands through construction of buildings in Harare Metropolitan Province remains one of the contributor to the water challenges bedevilling Harare and flooding of homes that rocked Harare in past years,” the organisations said in a statement.
The organisations said houses and a vocational centre were being built on the land but former Harare East Member of Parliament and Deputy Finance Minister Terrence Mukupe and Nakiso Consortium Private Limited say they are building a football pitch near Donnybrook Racecourse which is within the Cleveland catchment area.
Cde Mukupe also denied the assertions by the organisations saying the piece of land in question is not a wetland.
In an interview with Suburban, Cde Mukupe threatened to take legal action against those tarnishing his image as they never approached him to get his side of the story.
He said he is building a soccer training centre and he sees nothing wrong with that as his neighbours such as the Zimbabwe National Army have a shooting range nearby.
CHRA programmes manager, Mr Reuben Akili told Suburban that Cde Mukupe applied for that piece of land from the City of Harare.
“From our view, a grader has cleared roads on the wetland,” he said.
He said an Environmental Protection Order was issued by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) on the piece of land on September 10.
“We are worried that the property developer on Cleveland wetland (Nakiso Consortium Pvt Ltd) was issued an Environmental Protection Order by EMA but still continue to disregard the order and are worried that the events at Cleveland Catchment area reflect the current wave of destruction of wetlands at national level and by the gap that exists between policy and practice on protection of water sources and ecologically sensitive areas in our country,” reads the statement by the organisations.
The organisations said they were disappointed by the lack of action by the responsible authority, the City of Harare, despite engaging the municipality on the protection of wetlands.
They indicated that among other things, they will take legal action against current developments on the Cleveland catchment and other areas and raise awareness among residents on the importance of the preservation of wetlands and naming and shaming of offenders.
Wards 16 and 41 in Harare West as well as parts of Mt Pleasant have also seen a number of wetlands invaded for the purposes of building houses or commercial buildings.