Persistent heavy rains have pounded most parts of Zimbabwe since mid-December last year, bringing relief to farmers and urban dwellers following drought conditions experienced over the past two seasons.
Comment: The Standard Editor
The downpours have brought relief and misery in equal measure in different parts of the country but worryingly, some of the problems induced by the rains especially in Harare are self-inflicted.
In Bulawayo — where at least two of the five supply dams had dried up, leading to 72-hour water cuts every week — the rains have brought smiles to residents’ faces.
For Harare, a hotbed for diseases such as cholera and typhoid over the years, it has been a mixed bag as supply dams filled up while poor drainage raised the spectre of flash floods.
In the countryside farmers that were despairing over the state of pastures and condition of their livestock are now looking forward to the 2016/7 season with optimism.
However, the heavy rains have caused widespread floods and waterlogging in many parts of the country.
Crops have been destroyed and farmers have to contend with the effects of leaching at a time when the country is facing severe fertilizer shortages.
As if that was not enough, an outbreak of the fall army worm has been reported in a number of provinces, especially in Matabeleland and there are fears that its effects will be devastating since the pest is new to Africa.
The government is heavily constrained from mitigating these natural disasters because it is broke.
In Harare, the rains have brought to the fore the consequencies of poor town planning and corruption in the allocation of land for building purposes as residents with houses built in wetlands have been hit hard by flash floods in the past week.
Areas such as Budiriro 5, Monavale, Chitungwiza and Malbrough, among others, have wetlands that are under threat due to housing projects.
According to the Environmental Management Agency, wetlands in Harare and Chitungwiza have been compromised by illegal construction of malls, churches and houses.
Wetlands help reduce floods because of their ability to soak excess water and Harare is fast losing that natural protection.
Without doubt, Harare and Chitungwiza councils as well as the government are to blame for this disaster and this is a wake-up call for them to start doing something about the threat to what remains of the wetlands.
The authorities have to stop allocating land developers spaces in ecologically-sensitive areas.
They must also move those given land but have not started building to other areas that are suitable for housing development.
City fathers have to be alive to the realities of climate change where rainfall patterns have become difficult to predict.
One of the ways we can mitigate against extreme weather conditions associated with climate change is to protect what remains of the wetlands.
Harare City Council has to urgently attend to its poor drainage system, especially in suburbs such as Mbare where it has resulted in flash floods.
The flooding has also been partly blamed for the typhoid outbreak that has so far killed two people and left hundreds infected.
Council neglected its duties to clear the storm drains before the rainy season commenced and this amounts to negligence of criminal proportions given the loss of life and destruction of property.