By The Solutions Tower Staff.
Harare is built on a catchment area of Lakes Chivero and Manyame, and the two provide the city with water. The capital city has an estimated population of two and half million, with the numbers at times topping three and half million during the day due to rural-urban migration.
But that is beside the point because the Harare City Council (HCC) has poorly managed the conservation of wetlands under its jurisdiction. According to the Environment Management Act (Chapter 20.27), a wetland is “any area of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, and includes riparian land adjacent to the wetland.”
Wetlands are areas which should be preserved for present and future use by residents and no structures, including residences, should be erected on them. Wetlands exist to provide an aesthetic appeal to the environment but can also be used to naturally purify water.
Wetlands also aid with the natural purification of water. All things being equal, the Harare Water Department should, therefore, only apply minimal treatment chemicals to its water for use by the Harare residents. Furthermore, if wetlands are functioning as they should, this would imply Harare having to at most require only three water treatment chemicals (Harare Water, 2017) instead of the current nine.
Wetlands also help capture all the soils which may be eroded from loose lands before they reach water bodies such as Lake Chivero, Harare’s major source of water. The soils, if allowed to trickle into such water bodies, eventually cause siltation of dams and rivers alike, consequently depict a false measure of actual water available to concerned water related institutions. Wetlands, therefore, should be preserved by all means necessary as to avoid damage to major sources of water as well as ensure that Harare water remains as safe as possible, and that at a minimal cost.
In addition, some wetlands plants help absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as store it. So wetlands, in a way, help control climate change as wetland plants would act like sponges, soaking up excess water and storing it up for all weather purposes; either to absorb excess rain water and avoid over flooding or to release water from its tubers into various water sources during dry seasons.
Illegal Housing Developments and Refuse Dumps
Harare’s Wetlands face extinction as the Harare City Council has shown little interest in protecting many of its wetlands, something which can simply be enforced by robust implementation of existing bylaws and Environmental Management Act. Instead, some top government and council officials, work in collusion with land barons to parcel out the remaining wetlands to desperate home seekers, further exposing Harare’s main water bodies to water pollution.
For instance, a top government official has been accused by residents in Budiriro, Kuwadzana and Mufakose of allocating residential stands in Crowborough’s water way, an area reserved by Harare City Council for livestock paddocks. And more importantly, these wetlands naturally purify released sewer before resultant seepages find their way into streams that feed Lake Chivero.
Houses and home industries being put in these wetland areas are without doubt illegal structures and deserve to be pulled down through enforcement of municipal by-laws. And culprits involved in the parcelling of wetlands must be brought to book.
And when one visits wetlands during the rainy season, the beneficiaries of these stands in wetlands are exposed to flooding and diseases, given the presence of raw sewer which pours into the paddocks from the Sewage Treatment Plant.
Harare’s Wetlands also face extinction due to threats from illegal cultivation, housing construction and the indiscriminate dumping of waste by both residents business. Environmentalists have warned of serious consequences if illegal invasions of wetlands are not abated, and have hinted that Harare’s water table may have dropped from an estimated 15 metres to 30 metres.
In conclusion, wetlands are essential for the protection & conservation of the environment; and for the natural purification of water in Harare and in other areas in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Government must work together with local authorities to ensure that they have identified and partnered with local residents to educate communities on how best to utilise wetlands without damaging the environment.
This wetland awareness program would assist residents to have a continued and sustainable supply of clean and portable water.
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