Invaders who have partially developed the east side of Monavale Vlei / Wetland in Harare remain defiant despite efforts by authorities to stop their illegal occupation of the internationally recognized site.
By Edgar Gweshe
Over the weekend, the invaders erected a wooden cabin at the wetland in a clear indication that the protected wetland is under real threat from invasion and on Monday two, more shacks appeared by lunchtime.
It is possible that housing stands have already been sold hence the appearance of the shacks.
Monavale Vlei is protected under the Ramsar Treaty of 1971, an intergovernmental treaty that embodies commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of wetlands and to plan for the “wise use” or sustainable use of all of the wetlands in their territories. The sustainable use of Harare’s wetlands is to preserve them for the best outcome of water provisioning for all residents of the City.
Zimbabwe ratified the Ramsar Treaty in 2011 and has domesticated provisions for the protection of wetlands under the Environmental Management Act.
The country has seven wetlands that have been declared as Ramsar sites and these include the Monavale Vlei, Cleveland Dam, Mana Pools, Lake Chivero, Driefontein Grasslands, Chinhoyi Caves and the Victoria Falls National Park.
The Environmental Management Agency is on record saying Monavale Wetland is a protected site and any form of development on the area is illegal. The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) has also expressed concern over the continued destruction of wetlands saying the development was largely responsible for the drastic fall in the water table in Harare.
The Harare Wetlands Trust has raised the red flag over the threat to Monavale.
According to the Trust, tampering with wetlands will increase water scarcity as the wetlands are an important source of water for Harare.
The Trust has launched an intensive campaign to raise awareness on the need to preserve wetlands and has engaged local communities to actively participate in the preservation of wetlands.
Wetlands destruction has negative impacts on fresh water provision but illegal occupation of land for industrial and residential purposes has largely been responsible for the destruction of wetlands in Harare.
According to the Environmental Management Act, the Minister responsible for environment is empowered to stop illegal activities on wetlands.
Contacted for comment, EMA Spokesperson, Steady Kangata said the invasion of Monavale Vlei was an illegal activity.
He confirmed that they had put in place measures to protect the wetland adding that the law will take its course and stop “any form of development on the area”.
“Monavale is gazetted as a wetland and there are laws to protect that area. We are very much aware that residents and other stakeholders are disturbed by the illegal occupation of the area and we can assure them that we will definitely act to protect the area,” said Kangata.
Harare City Council spokesperson, Michael Chideme said he would comment on the issue as soon as they get enough details on the invasion of Monavale Wetland East.