7 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Destruction of Harare Wetlands Leading to 'Undrinkable' Water

The continued destruction of Harare's wetland areas, by way of various construction projects, is being blamed in part for the capital's undrinkable, unsanitary water supplies.

This is according to a local environmentalist and researcher, Professor Christopher Magadza, who said this week that the future of Harare's water supplies went hand in hand with the future of the wetlands. The Professor made the comments during a tour of some of the wetlands areas, most of which are in the process of being turned into residential stands, shopping malls and industrial sites. Twenty seven wetlands were recently gazetted for development purposes.

With wetlands acting as natural water catchment areas, their destruction means that Harare's water table is at an all time low. According to Professor Magadza, the capital is now entirely reliant on recycled water as a result. But he warned that this water is not safe for drinking.

"About 50% of the water you drink is clean," he said. "The other 50% is your returned urine."

He also warned of the associated diseases linked to drinking unclean water, like the water in Harare.

"When the city receives the raw water, they have to present it in a drinkable state. Recently, the mayor of Harare said they used up to 11 chemicals to treat the water. Just think of what that will do to the water!" the Professor said, adding: "Incidences of liver cancer and deaths due to stomach troubles (not necessarily cholera) are increasing."

Precious Shumba from the Harare Residents Trust told SW Radio Africa that residents do not trust the local water supplies anymore, but the local authority is not doing enough to combat the situation. A recent survey by the Trust has echoed the concerns raised by Professor Magadza, with residents mainly using the local water supplies for washing clothes.

The threat to the wetlands meanwhile has been largely dismissed by the government and the construction teams heading the various development projects in the capital. This includes the building of a super-mall in Borrowdale, which the Environmental Management Agency has reportedly given the green light to go ahead, despite widespread objections.

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