The Combined Harare Residents Association joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Wetlands Day on the 2nd of February under the theme “Wetland Action for People and Nature” and Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention that provides international legal framework on the protection of wetlands.
The day comes at a time when Harare’s wetlands which are a source of water for the City are being depleted at a faster rate by construction and agricultural activities with people settled on wetlands facing perennial flooding in areas such as Budiriro.
Wetlands are fragile ecosystems rich in biodiversity and constitute resources of great ecological, economic, cultural and recreational value but lack of consensus among CSOs, government and other stakeholders on “sustainable use” of wetlands is self-destructing.
We are aware that recently the government of Zimbabwe gazetted a wetland map recognizing wetlands as ecologically sensitive areas that need to be protected and preserved, and guide spatial planning for local authorities and government.
However, the gap between policy and practice within our governance system is distressing and has been the major contributor to the depletion of wetlands. Clear examples are the construction of houses in Borrowdale Vlei, LongChen Plaza and a big retail shop in Sunningdale along Seke Road.
The selective application of the law we have witnessed of demolishing houses built on wetlands in high density suburbs while the same laws are not applied to commercial buildings and low density houses built on wetlands is unacceptable.
We reiterate our position that the main threat to our wetlands are politicians and as we enter into the campaign period ahead of the 2023 elections, we call upon politicians from all political parties to desist from promising people housing stands on wetlands as this is counterproductive.
Considering that our City is located on the catchment area of Lake Chivero, Manyame and Seke Dam and that our local authority is spending US$3 million per month on water purification, wetlands can perform the water purification and other ecological functions for free which are beneficial to the City.
In line with chapter 14 of the Constitution on devolution and appreciating that our wetlands are unique, wetlands protection premised on the concept of community stewardship is the solution and government and local authorities must support such initiatives that will see the cultural, recreational, economic and ecological services are realized.
We therefore make the following recommendations;
- Political parties in Zimbabwe should come up with comprehensive and robust climate change policies that will include wetlands protection in their election Manifestos ahead of the 2023 elections.
- Local Authorities must come up with enforceable Climate Change Policies that recognize wetlands protection as part of climate resilience strategy.
- Improved coordination among government departments, agencies and local authorities on environmental and water management plans.
- The newly developed Harare Wetlands map should guide spatial planning within the Metropolitan Province.
- Government must respect international treaties, domestic laws and its policies by immediately stopping construction activities currently underway on wetlands across the City.
- Full implementation of devolution as provided by Chapter 14 of the constitution and allow citizens to have a voice on the management of natural resources within their local areas.
- Government and local authorities must not allow any further land grabs or invasions on any wetland and safeguard the abuse of regularization provisions in the regional Town Planning Act by politically connected land barons.
Source: Combined Harare Residents Trust