Residents of Kambuzuma, Ward 14 are battling to save a wetland which has been identified for industrial construction purposes.
A local firm is currently constructing a fuel station on the wetland at Stand Number 2907, Section 2, Kambuzuma Township.
What has made the situation worse is the fact that the fuel station is being constructed less than 10 meters from some houses and residents have raised concern that their houses are cracking as a result of ramming activities at the site of the construction.
Members of the Kambuzuma Local Environment Action Plan (LEAP) Committee have since engaged the Harare City Council and human rights lawyers seeking to halt the construction at the wetland.
What has irked the residents is the lack of consultation by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the Harare City Council before issuing out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate to the developer.
EMA has however stated that consultations were made with the Kambuzuma residents, a claim that has been widely refuted by the Kambuzuma community.
The Chairperson of the Kambuzuma LEAP Committee, Miriam Chidhonza said “the invasion” of the wetland was a serious cause for concern.
“As residents, we are very much concerned about the decision by EMA and the city council to grant the private developer a licence before consulting us. We were never consulted and when the developer started his project, we tried to raise the red flag only to realize that some underhand dealings had already taken place,” said Chidhonza.
“We strongly believe that the protection of wetlands and the environment is important for sustainable development and water provision. We have engaged the Harare City Council and human rights lawyers so that they act on this issue which is of major concern to the residents of Kambuzuma. We were never consulted as residents when the wetland was identified for construction purposes and we are saying that any form of development on the wetland is very much illegal,” said Chidhonza.
“The depletion of wetlands compromises water availability as well as the water quality and any form of invasions on wetlands must be stopped.”
EMA Spokesperson, Steady Kangata however said they had consulted residents and there was a resolution that the private developer be allocated “a small portion of the wetland area”.
“The developer was given permission to do the construction on a portion of that area and not the entire area. We had to balance between, social, economic as well as environmental issues. So I can say that an Environmental Impact Assessment was done before permission for construction was granted.
“We consulted residents and there was consensus that the developer be allocated only a small portion of that area,” said Kangata.
Harare City Council Spokesperson, Michael Chideme was not available for comment.
Wetlands are the major sources of water for Harare but of late, they have been under threat due to a host of factors that include residential and industrial expansion projects which are often implemented without paying due regard to the need to preserve these water sources.
Recently, the Harare City Council had to demolish illegal structures which had been erected on the East side of Monavale Vlei which is a protected wetland and international site.
Moved by the continuous threat to wetlands, the Harare Wetlands Trust (HWT) launched a campaign aimed at mobilizing community involvement in the protection of wetlands.
The campaign seeks to mobilize communities to actively participate in wetlands protection through the LEAP programmes. As part of the campaign, residents from various communities have identified wetlands which they are protecting as a way of ensuring sustainable water provision.
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on the protection of wetlands and the country has enacted the Environmental Management Act under which wetlands are protected.