City fathers must respect town plans

HARARE - The lawsuit slapped on the Harare City Council by residents, if anything, calls for self-introspection on the part of the country’s biggest urban local authority.

Our sister paper, the Daily News, yesterday carried a report on the residents of Mbare who have filed a $100 000 suit as compensation for loss of property, sleep and accommodation following floods that ravished their homes along Mbirimi, Chinamhora, Dumbutshena and Mwamuka streets of one of Harare’s oldest suburbs.

The construction of the Gulf Sunshine Bazaar along Simon Mazorodze Road was allowed to continue despite the fact that engineers had not done a proper job and were only trying to do corrective engineering now when residents have already lost thousands worth of property.

In allowing the construction, the City of Harare reflected yet another instance of a glaring lack of due diligence in the city’s planning and engineering departments.

The fact that council had already admitted to the wrongdoing shows how processes in their offices are at times not subjected to proper checks before initiation of projects.

There have been several cases nationally of structures that have sprouted up in places they were never meant to be in the first place. Perhaps what immediately comes to mind is the case involving wetlands.

Most cities and towns in Zimbabwe have witnessed several housing projects taking place on wetlands despite stakeholder agencies like the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) raising the red flag.

The environmental impact of these constructions on wetlands may not be immediate but surely at some point, these will return to haunt future generations.

All urban local authorities have departments responsible for the planning and engineering functions. These should always perform due diligence processes before authorising any construction project.

Today, because of the growth of housing waiting lists, the country has witnessed the continued shrinking of urban recreation facilities as more and more land is eaten up by housing development in infills.

While housing is a genuine priority for most city fathers, it should not be allowed to eat into other areas like the Gulf Bazaar construction has shown. Proper planning and sticking to original land-use functions could be the panacea to the growing problem.

These earlier plans clearly outlined areas that were set aside for housing, schools, churches, recreational facilities among others and hence should be left like that. The expansion of the cities should therefore not eat up these important land-use functions.

When this is let to happen, there is a threat further losses will continue to lurk as councils fail to put their houses in order.

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