Zimbabwe: Mount Pleasant Residents Community Fight Wetlands Destruction

26 November 2019

The residents of Northwood, Mount Pleasant are fighting against the construction of 240 cluster homes, on a wetland in the suburb. Already faced with numerous challenges that include acute water shortages, a poor sewarage and waste management system, the City council is battling to adequately service the area.

Situated on a piece of land between Twickenham Drive, Pershore Rise, Harare Drive and Westborough Road, the wetland, which is one of the sources of the Gwebi River, has black cotton soils which are not suitable for septic tanks.

The community were for the first time, only made aware of the situation at brief meeting held at council offices on Friday 22 November, where it was communicated that the proposal to build 240 cluster homes was said to have been approved, and construction imminent. Human Rights and Legal Expert Charity Hodzi Sibanda , expressed concern " We are questioning the due process, which includes consultation, legal and policy frameworks surrounding the development of this area"

For a development of this magnitude, the community are by law, meant to be advised in advance, so that they can register any legal, environmental and social concerns. Before any approvals are granted , an Ecological Survey is required, and under the Environmental Management Act, an Environmental Impact Assessment should be carried out, and a certificate issued. These processes were not followed, and to date, the property developers remain unknown to the community.

The community are petitioning against the development on the site, which is actually one of the sources of the Gwebi river, but has mysteriously changed in status from being a wetland to a non-wetland. In this regard The Harare Wetlands Trust, who are already in the process of challenging the construction of buildings in Braeside, that would threaten the Mukuvisi River wetland, have been roped in. It has been the Government's drive to stop the construction of buildings on Wetlands, due to the worsening water crisis in the country.

"We are elated by calls from President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other senior government officials that are calling for wetlands to be preserved" The Harare Wetlands Trust has said.

Residents of Mount Pleasant are being called on to register their objections by signing a petition letter that has been drawn up with the assistance of community members that include lawyers, civil engineers and city planners. The petition can be signed at Café Nion today Tuesday 26 November 2019 between 10.30am and 5pm. Additionally, each resident can draw up a letter of objection, stating clearly how the development may affect their livelihoods, and drop them off at no. 63 Twickenham Drive before 9am on Wednesday 27 November.

"We are challenging the process and decision to approve this development, which has a huge negative environmental and ecological impact on the ecosystem and the community. We have to be realistic and think about the implications on health, access to water, the availability of schools and clinics to service the area, the transport network, security, and property value. As is it the City council is already overburdened" said Chair Maureen Mparadzi.

The proposed 240 cluster homes housing on average, families of 4, would equate to an additional 960 people that would be in need of a functional system. The area has no public boreholes, and the water table is currently very low, well below 60-80m.

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