Residents demand protection of wetlands

HARARE - Scores of Harare residents rallied in the streets on Saturday, demanding the arrest of land barons, corrupt government officials and the alignment of laws to preserve wetlands.

This comes as construction activities on wetlands are giving rise to pollution of underground water.

In some parts of Harare, the water table has also dropped from 18 metres to 30 metres, making it increasingly difficult to access water.

Peeved by the continued destruction of wetlands, residents commemorated World Wetlands Day by demonstrating against the destruction of wetlands and petitioning Parliament to act on perpetrators.

The protesters sang and toyi-toyed, carrying placards emblazoned “No Future for Harare Without Wetlands”, “Corruption Destroys Wetlands” and “We Demand Urgent Harmonisation of Laws Governing Wetlands”.

“The march is a way to register concern over the continued destruction of wetlands which are our water sources in Harare.

“Wetlands are very important in resolving challenges of water provision in Harare,” said Harare resident Happiness Salije.

In a petition handed to clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda, the residents called on the National Assembly to establish institutions tasked with wetlands preservation responsibilities.

Reads part of the petitioners’ plea: “Compel the ministry of Environment, Water and Climate to complete the re-gazetting of Harare wetlands map, development of the national environment action plan and direct local authorities to develop environment friendly master plans.

“Call the Environment Management Agency (Ema), Upper Manyame sub-catchment council, Zimbabwe National Water Authority and the City of Harare to answer and account to Parliament on management of wetlands and catchments. Improve the Environmental Impact Assessment framework and Protection and Preservation of Wetlands in Harare.”

The petition was undersigned by Harare Wetlands Trust, Community Water Alliance, Combined Harare Residents Association, Conservation Society of Monavale, Norton Residents Alliance, Chitungwiza Residents and Ratepayers Association and Epworth Residents Development Association among others.

A cross section of Harare residents also blamed corruption and abuse of political power for rampant wetlands destruction.

Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection Regulations (SI) 7 of 2007 provides for the protection of wetlands, however, Ema has said their hands are tied when it comes to stopping any developments on these marshes.

The Institute of Water and Sanitation indicates that by 2025, there will be severe water scarcity in Zimbabwe.

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