By Tendai Guvamombe
The Harare City Council and the Environmental Management Agency are under fire for allowing invasion of wetlands in the old suburbs of Mabvuku and Tafara amid reports that residents are grappling with water shortages as springs drying are up.
This was revealed on Thursday last week during a meeting on Wetlands Preservation and Awareness with Tafara Residents convened by Harare Wetlands Trust.
Ephraim Mutami who has stayed in Tafara for the past 50 years expressed worry over the way City Authorities and the Environmental Management Agency are allowing invasion of wetlands that have been providing them with spring water in the area.
“It is a known fact that Mabvuku has not been receiving water since time immemorial. We used to fetch water from springs in the wetlands but our main worry is that the City of Harare and EMA have been allowing infrastructural developments which are now threatening the existence of springs and wetlands which we desperately rely on,” Mutami said.
Currently the residents have filed court applications seeking an urgent evacuation of a cement company which is situated in the Tafara Vlei, the watershed for nearby springs. In the midst of seeking a legal route, residents say they are baffled by the fact that Harare City Council is opposing their bid through engagement of lawyers.
“Currently we are legally fighting for the removal of a brick and cement company situated in one of our very own wetlands. The company is owned by businessman Patsika whom we have already taken to court. Regrettably, the City Fathers are now fighting our legal bid as they now protect this guy engaging lawyers on his behalf. As the Mabvuku and Tafara residents, we are not going to tolerate any of these corrupt activities by the city council and other authorities. We shall fight hard to protect our Wetlands,” Mutami added.
In response to this, Tafara Ward 46 Councillor, Steward Utaunashe, said the invasion of wetlands in Mabvuku and Tafara was at the instigation of the government whose interference limits the City Council from reversing various illegal developments taking place in many parts of Harare.
“As the council we are aware of these illegal developments which are carried out either by private companies or land barons but let me say whenever we try to stop and reverse some of these developments, many a time the government intervenes to protect the illegally settled people.”
According to Julia Perrie from Harare Wetlands Trust (HWT), the water problems which the whole city is grappling with will only be resolved by the means of preserving the wetlands that have remained in the City.
“One of the critical aspects is that the issues of water problems in Harare will not be solved by drilling more boreholes which are now running out of water, but through the preservation of our wastelands which have remained in the City and other parts of Zimbabwe,” Perrie said.
HWT Programs Officer Selestino Chari said his organisation is in overdrive of holding community based meetings ahead of the National Campaign on Wetlands Preservations whose dates will be announced in due course.
“As Harare Wetlands Trust, we would like to conscientise the general public that the issue of wetlands calls for everyone’s participation in the entire country so we are trying our best to reach out to every community ahead of National Campaign on Wetlands Preservation, a big event which calls for wider stakeholder participation.”