If Derick Mpofu of the Chisikana Changu Zimbabwe fame, who performed the song at the WWD celebrations (a song he says celebrates Zimbabwe’s natural beauty), knew the ruined state the country’s environment is really in, he might yet consider changing his song’s title to “Taparadza Zimbabwe” (We have destroyed Zimbabwe), or something along those lines.
In an article that appeared in The Herald of February 6 2012, entitled “Council must protect wetlands”, the writer wrote: “Harare’s wetlands are teetering on the edge of a cliff and it only takes a push to send them off into extinction,” which the writer blamed on “voting into office councillors who cannot comprehend critical issues”.
I could not agree more.
Either owing to massive ignorance or excessive love for money even at the expense of our very welfare, the country’s wetlands, which have long been established to be a vital part of the ecosystem, are facing serious abuse and are in serious danger of running out.
Many people have taken to dumping waste uncollected by the council in the wetlands while others have turned them into agricultural fields owing to their ever-wet natural state.
The worst destruction wetlands face however is as a result of the current construction on them of both residential and commercial buildings.
What is ironic about the case is how the councils, which are expected to safeguard these ecologically vital areas that we definitely need if we are to secure future water supplies, are at the forefront of running them down.
Just recently, the Harare and Chitungwiza city councils sat before the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) facing, among other environmental destruction charges, that of allocating stands on wetlands.
What is disturbing is that the councils have before defied orders by EMA to stop any unauthorised activities on wetlands and hence there is no guarantee they will comply with this latest ruling.
Asked if EMA had any real muscle to stand against the councils and what the organisation would do if the latter chose to ignore its orders, Steady Kangata, EMA publicity officer asserted his organisation would see to it that there was compliance.
“Section 3 of the Environmental Management Act 20:27 clearly states that no Act shall contradict or be inconsistent with the Environmental Management Act.
“We will definitely go ahead and demolish all structures that have been constructed without carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment. Like the construction taking place at the National Sports Stadium, that is a very good candidate for demolishment,” said Kangata.
According to Kangata, the Act does not however make provision for the demolition of complete structures built on wetlands.
Environment minister Francis Nhema is reported as having said last week during the WWD celebrations in Vic Falls his ministry would act to save wetlands.
“As a ministry, we shall descend heavily on those utilising wetlands illegally without the necessary authorisation,” he said.
It however remains to be seen what course of action his ministry will take in response to the councils’ defiance.
Unfortunately, it is not only these authorities that are calling the shots that will suffer the effects of the present wetland abuses as each of us is bound to be affected.
According to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa)’s groundwater department, the water table has drastically gone down and warned that if the construction on wetlands continues, groundwater (which is our main source of drinking water) will not only be declared unsafe for drinking, but will be scarce too.
The Institute of Water and Sanitation Capacity Development projected water scarcity in Zimbabwe by 2025 owing to the continued “mismanagement and abuse of vulnerable ecosystems”.
These are just a few of the dangers to look forward to if the wetlands were to be wiped out.
“Communities need to stand up and say no to the abuse of wetlands in their areas as their destruction will affect everyone in a major way. Do not leave it to EMA to do all the work. Take the imitative,” urged Dorothy Wakeling, spokesperson for Conservation Society of Monavale Trust (Cosmo).
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Wetlands around Harare in danger
THE Numerous wetlands that have since been converted to stands were identified all around Harare, most notable being the Monavale wetland where houses now stand, the Belvedere wetland by the National Sports Stadium where construction of a hotel is going on while a school is being built on the Ashdown Park wetland.
Wetlands in Ballantyne Park, Borrowdale (opposite the race course), Budiriro 3 and 4, Tynwald, Glen Lorne, Eastlea, and many in Chitungwiza also face imminent danger in the face of constructions taking place on them.