30 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Another Wetland Under Threat

Construction of the project is underway along the Harare-Bulawayo Road, just after the medium density suburb of Westlea, a few kilometres from another controversial development sitting on yet another wetland, the so-called China City, near the National Sports Stadium.

The Environment Management Agency (EMA) this week said it had approved the project as it does not upset the ecosystem, adding that any building activities would be concentrated on only a small portion of the wetland.

"The development in question is a service station. An environmental impact assessment was done. The project does not cover the entire area," said EMA spokesperson, Steady Kangata.

The approval has, however, sparked controversy.

Precious Shumba, the coordinator of the Harare Residents Trust, has blasted the decision.

"To us whether they have taken two centimetres or a kilometre, the difference is the same. Wetlands must be safeguarded at all costs so that they provide quality water," said Shumba.

Harare Ward 16 councillor, Lancelot Mudavanhu said he was told by the planning department that the service station was approved some time before 2012 when he enquired about the project.

He said government had set a dangerous precedent by flouting the country's laws.

"It must start with central government and cascade downwards. The other thing is that EMA is ignoring it as if they don't exist," said Mudavanhu.

Projections by environmental experts indicate that there would be water scarcity in Zimbabwe by 2025 as a result of the destruction and mismanagement of ecosystems such as wetlands.

The Conservation Society of Monavale Trust, which leads efforts to conserve the Monavale Vlei, said wetlands are valuable assets quantifiable in water management and are just as important as other infrastructural assets of the city of Harare.

Healthy wetlands such as Monavale Vlei support 36 grass species and 86 plus other plants, as do similar intact wetlands in the Manyame/Marimba catchment area.

These grasses collectively remove pollution from run-off, saving huge spending on operating waste water treatment works. They replenish groundwater, contribute by transpiration to air moisture that results in rain; they also use up and store carbon dioxide to protect our climate.

The Trust said wetland destruction through cultivation and building eats into the capital of natural resources assets, thus resulting in a huge cost to Harare residents.

Their loss results in chronic inability to meet essential services of water and waste water management and creates additional costs which Harare residents have to bear.

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