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Destruction-of-wetlands-biodiversity-threatened

“The construction of houses on wetlands coupled with a sharp increase in the use of borehole water has contributed to the depletion of Harare’s water table,” said Eng Sunguro.

 

He said, the water table used to be around 15 to 18 meters below the earth’s surface but now it has gone down to about 30 meters in some areas.

 

Mrs Sue Burr a concerned Harare resident said because of housing developments on wetlands, boreholes in some parts of Borrowdale and Ballantyne Park have dried up.

 

The construction of houses on wetlands has also caused an increase in the contamination of underground water.

 

“People construct septic tanks that drain into soakaways thereby polluting underground water through seepage,” said Eng Sunguro.

 

Since soakaways are not connected to the main sewer channels, solid waste settles in the deep pit filled with stones and the waste water sips into the ground.

 

“Septic tanks also burst thereby getting into waterways and polluting underground water,” said Eng Sunguro.

 

“If construction of houses on wetlands continues at the current rate we run the risk of declaring underground water unsafe for drinking,” he said.

 

Institute of Water and Sanitation’s Capacity Development Officer Mrs Regina Pahwaringira said, projections indicate that by 2025 there will be water scarcity in Zimbabwe as a result of the deterioration and mismanagement of valuable ecosystems.

 

The term wetland covers a wide range of natural systems such as flood plains, artificial impoundments, pans and dambo (mapani or matoro or vlei) which is land where the water level below the earth’s surface is near or above the land surface or land that is saturated for a long time supporting aquatic processes.

 

“Wetlands have been affected to a larger extent by the construction of houses mostly in urban areas due to the shortage of accommodation,” said the Environmental Management Agency’s Manager for Education and Publicity Mr Steady Kangata.

 

Over the past two decades, Zimbabwe has seen an increase in the allocation of residential stands and subsequent construction of houses on wetlands.

 

Residents of Ballanytne Park and Monavale have gone as far as writing letters to the Director of Urban Planning Services raising concerns regarding the increase in housing developments on wetlands.

 

Dr Shane Stockill, a resident of Newlands also raised concerns over the development on the Mandara Vlei, an area sandwiched by Harare Drive, Beeston Road and Gletwyn.

 

“Regardless of the acute shortage of shelter, environmental laws must be followed,” said Mr Kangata.

 

He said the Environmental Management Agency has written letters to the Harare City Council instructing them to stop further allocation of stands and development on wetlands but to no avail.

 

Responding to the allegations, City of Harare’s Environmental Management Commission’s Chairperson, Mr Herbert Gomba said no letter had come to their attention from the Agency.

 

Monavale Vlei is one of the wetlands that has been turned into residential stands.

 

“Mayfield Estate on Avondale Stream adjacent to the round about on Monavale Road in front of BS Leon is one area where wetlands have been compromised,” said Mrs Wakeling, the Project Manager for Conservation Society of Monavale, Cosmo.

 

She said a house is being developed within 30 meters from the Avondale Stream and some deep foundations are being dug in that area.

 

Houses in the Monavale Vlei without properly paved drive ways are characterized by rubbles that run from the road up to the door step as the area is always water logged.

 

“Waterborne diseases are also common in wetlands as the area is always wet,” said Mr Steve Davies the chairman of Cosmo.

 

Houses built on wetlands are prone to flooding and collapsing.

   

“The danger associated with housing developments on wetlands may include cracking and bending of structures as a result of differential settlement reducing the lifespan of the structure,” said Mrs Pahwaringira.  

 

A case study of Shurugwi District conducted by the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Midlands State University revealed that in 1980 wetlands occupied 220 hectares or 56.6 percent of the area under study.

 

By the year 2003, wetlands in the study area declined to 43.4 percent representing an annual average decrease of 0.6 percent.

 

Wetlands perform vital functions and their destruction results in an imbalance of the ecosystem.

 

“One of the most important functions of wetlands is their ability to act as a natural earth sponge,” said Mr Kangata.

 

Wetlands perform the function of sponges by soaking up rain and slowly releasing this water in drier seasons.

 

They also act as a water quality regulator because of their natural filtration mechanism.

 

In addition wetlands act as temporary storage basins and in return this reduces erosion.

 

“In the event of floods, their ability to act as sponges reduces destruction by slowing down surface runoff,” said Mr Kangata.

 

Infrastructural development on wetlands increases surface runoff and thus increases chances of flooding.

 

Wetlands filter pollutants such as sewage and fertilizers composed of nitrogen and phosphorus as well as heavy metals from industrial waste.

 

Mrs Pahwaringira said clearing a wetland for housing developments causes water pollution.

 

“Allocation of residential stands anywhere is accompanied by the construction of roads, culverts and storm water drains and during this process soil is moved and pits are created,” she said.

 

Wetlands also provide a habitat to different species of flora (plants) and fauna (animals) that live in semi-aquatic conditions.

 

Some of these land and semi-aquatic animals and plants include amphibians and arthropods which are at the beginning of the food chain supporting all other kinds of life such as frogs, fish, birds and large dry land animals

 

 “Construction of houses on wetlands also causes a decrease in biodiversity,” said an Ecologist and member of Urban Agriculture Stakeholders Forum, Mrs Anna Brazir.

 

Mr Kangata said wetlands are ecological sensitive areas which require the application for permission in terms of Section 113 of the Environmental Management Agency Act Chapter 20:27 before developments are undertaken on them.

 

The Environmental Management Act provides for the sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment, the prevention of pollution and environmental degradation.

 

In terms of section 97 of the Environmental Management Act Chapter 20:27 of 2003, housing developments are one prescribed activity where an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has to be undertaken before any development commences.

 

Mr Davies said, in most cases the majority of developments are taking place without any EIA being done.

 

“Most of the developments especially in Monavale are taking place without any EIAs being done, because a house cannot be developed a few meters from a stream in a flooding zone,” he said.

 

Mr Gomba of the City of Harare confirmed that no Environmental Impact Assessments were done at most of the current building sites.

 

“Before we came into office, businessmen applied for land with EIAs being submitted to council at a later stage after the land had already been sold.”

 

“As a result of this anomaly, most businessmen developed the land without any EIAs being done as this was an expense to them.”

 

He said now land applications have to be accompanied with an EIA.

 

“Housing developments can take place on wetlands provided the provisions of the prevailing environmental law have been followed through making appropriate applications to the Director General of the Environmental Management Agency as well as carrying out an EIA so that species in the area are identified and if need be, relocated to avoid their extinction,” said Mrs Pahwaringira.

 

Despite the legislation that has been put in place to govern the protection of wetlands, their destruction is still on the increase with those responsible pointing fingers instead of coming up with a lasting solution.  

 

Mr Gomba said EMA’s laws are not stringent enough to stop construction of houses on wetlands.

 

“Policy governing wetlands has not been enforced and EMA has no muscle to stop housing developments on wetlands,” said Mr Gomba.

 

Water and Sanitation Officer Mrs Pahwaringira said, wetland conservation is not all about putting the right policies in place but also takes cognisance of awareness levels of communities as well as enforcement by the Environmental Management Agency.

 

Environmentalists seem to be sharing the same vision when it comes to the most appropriate way of conserving the remaining wetlands.

 

Environment Africa’s Programme Officer on Environmental Rights Mr Selestino Chari said wetlands should be given to communities to manage as in the case of the Conservation Society of Monavale, Cosmo.

 

If communities are given the mandate to manage wetlands, the burden on authorities will be reduced.

 

“Council is urging various organisations like Environment Africa and Cosmo to come up with local plans to protect the remaining wetlands,” said Mr Gomba.

 

Wetlands can be utilized in a way that is sustainable without affecting its various ecological functions.

 

 “If wetlands are to be utilized at all, they can be used as recreational facilities like parks or golf courses as this will not affect their ecological functions,” said an environmentalist Mrs Sue Burr.

 

Some environmentalists have suggested a better way of constructing houses on wetlands when there is real need to.

“In the event that wetlands are utilized for housing developments, the only sustainable way would be to build upwards as this would reduce the area to be cleared as was the case in Curitiba, a city in Brazil,” said Mrs Brazir.

 

Wetlands are a vital natural resource that is loosing the attention that it deserves and is currently degrading at an alarming rate hence the need to focus on quick remedial measures.

 

Destruction-of-wetlands-biodiversity-threatened

 

The rate of destruction of wetlands in Zimbabwe’s urban settlements has reached alarming proportions as the majority of them are being turned into residential and industrial stands.

 

 

Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA)’s Ground Water Manager, Engineer Sam Sunguro said construction of houses on wetlands depletes the water table and gives rise to pollution of underground water.

 

“The construction of houses on wetlands coupled with a sharp increase in the use of borehole water has contributed to the depletion of Harare’s water table,” said Eng Sunguro.

 

He said, the water table used to be around 15 to 18 meters below the earth’s surface but now it has gone down to about 30 meters in some areas.

 

Mrs Sue Burr a concerned Harare resident said because of housing developments on wetlands, boreholes in some parts of Borrowdale and Ballantyne Park have dried up.

 

The construction of houses on wetlands has also caused an increase in the contamination of underground water.

 

“People construct septic tanks that drain into soakaways thereby polluting underground water through seepage,” said Eng Sunguro.

 

Since soakaways are not connected to the main sewer channels, solid waste settles in the deep pit filled with stones and the waste water sips into the ground.

 

“Septic tanks also burst thereby getting into waterways and polluting underground water,” said Eng Sunguro.

 

“If construction of houses on wetlands continues at the current rate we run the risk of declaring underground water unsafe for drinking,” he said.

 

Institute of Water and Sanitation’s Capacity Development Officer Mrs Regina Pahwaringira said, projections indicate that by 2025 there will be water scarcity in Zimbabwe as a result of the deterioration and mismanagement of valuable ecosystems.

 

The term wetland covers a wide range of natural systems such as flood plains, artificial impoundments, pans and dambo (mapani or matoro or vlei) which is land where the water level below the earth’s surface is near or above the land surface or land that is saturated for a long time supporting aquatic processes.

 

“Wetlands have been affected to a larger extent by the construction of houses mostly in urban areas due to the shortage of accommodation,” said the Environmental Management Agency’s Manager for Education and Publicity Mr Steady Kangata.

 

Over the past two decades, Zimbabwe has seen an increase in the allocation of residential stands and subsequent construction of houses on wetlands.

 

Residents of Ballanytne Park and Monavale have gone as far as writing letters to the Director of Urban Planning Services raising concerns regarding the increase in housing developments on wetlands.

 

Dr Shane Stockill, a resident of Newlands also raised concerns over the development on the Mandara Vlei, an area sandwiched by Harare Drive, Beeston Road and Gletwyn.

 

“Regardless of the acute shortage of shelter, environmental laws must be followed,” said Mr Kangata.

 

He said the Environmental Management Agency has written letters to the Harare City Council instructing them to stop further allocation of stands and development on wetlands but to no avail.

 

Responding to the allegations, City of Harare’s Environmental Management Commission’s Chairperson, Mr Herbert Gomba said no letter had come to their attention from the Agency.

 

Monavale Vlei is one of the wetlands that has been turned into residential stands.

 

“Mayfield Estate on Avondale Stream adjacent to the round about on Monavale Road in front of BS Leon is one area where wetlands have been compromised,” said Mrs Wakeling, the Project Manager for Conservation Society of Monavale, Cosmo.

 

She said a house is being developed within 30 meters from the Avondale Stream and some deep foundations are being dug in that area.

 

Houses in the Monavale Vlei without properly paved drive ways are characterized by rubbles that run from the road up to the door step as the area is always water logged.

 

“Waterborne diseases are also common in wetlands as the area is always wet,” said Mr Steve Davies the chairman of Cosmo.

 

Houses built on wetlands are prone to flooding and collapsing.

   

“The danger associated with housing developments on wetlands may include cracking and bending of structures as a result of differential settlement reducing the lifespan of the structure,” said Mrs Pahwaringira.  

 

A case study of Shurugwi District conducted by the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Midlands State University revealed that in 1980 wetlands occupied 220 hectares or 56.6 percent of the area under study.

 

By the year 2003, wetlands in the study area declined to 43.4 percent representing an annual average decrease of 0.6 percent.

 

Wetlands perform vital functions and their destruction results in an imbalance of the ecosystem.

 

“One of the most important functions of wetlands is their ability to act as a natural earth sponge,” said Mr Kangata.

 

Wetlands perform the function of sponges by soaking up rain and slowly releasing this water in drier seasons.

 

They also act as a water quality regulator because of their natural filtration mechanism.

 

In addition wetlands act as temporary storage basins and in return this reduces erosion.

 

“In the event of floods, their ability to act as sponges reduces destruction by slowing down surface runoff,” said Mr Kangata.

 

Infrastructural development on wetlands increases surface runoff and thus increases chances of flooding.

 

Wetlands filter pollutants such as sewage and fertilizers composed of nitrogen and phosphorus as well as heavy metals from industrial waste.

 

Mrs Pahwaringira said clearing a wetland for housing developments causes water pollution.

 

“Allocation of residential stands anywhere is accompanied by the construction of roads, culverts and storm water drains and during this process soil is moved and pits are created,” she said.

 

Wetlands also provide a habitat to different species of flora (plants) and fauna (animals) that live in semi-aquatic conditions.

 

Some of these land and semi-aquatic animals and plants include amphibians and arthropods which are at the beginning of the food chain supporting all other kinds of life such as frogs, fish, birds and large dry land animals

 

 “Construction of houses on wetlands also causes a decrease in biodiversity,” said an Ecologist and member of Urban Agriculture Stakeholders Forum, Mrs Anna Brazir.

 

Mr Kangata said wetlands are ecological sensitive areas which require the application for permission in terms of Section 113 of the Environmental Management Agency Act Chapter 20:27 before developments are undertaken on them.

 

The Environmental Management Act provides for the sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment, the prevention of pollution and environmental degradation.

 

In terms of section 97 of the Environmental Management Act Chapter 20:27 of 2003, housing developments are one prescribed activity where an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has to be undertaken before any development commences.

 

Mr Davies said, in most cases the majority of developments are taking place without any EIA being done.

 

“Most of the developments especially in Monavale are taking place without any EIAs being done, because a house cannot be developed a few meters from a stream in a flooding zone,” he said.

 

Mr Gomba of the City of Harare confirmed that no Environmental Impact Assessments were done at most of the current building sites.

 

“Before we came into office, businessmen applied for land with EIAs being submitted to council at a later stage after the land had already been sold.”

 

“As a result of this anomaly, most businessmen developed the land without any EIAs being done as this was an expense to them.”

 

He said now land applications have to be accompanied with an EIA.

 

“Housing developments can take place on wetlands provided the provisions of the prevailing environmental law have been followed through making appropriate applications to the Director General of the Environmental Management Agency as well as carrying out an EIA so that species in the area are identified and if need be, relocated to avoid their extinction,” said Mrs Pahwaringira.

 

Despite the legislation that has been put in place to govern the protection of wetlands, their destruction is still on the increase with those responsible pointing fingers instead of coming up with a lasting solution.  

 

Mr Gomba said EMA’s laws are not stringent enough to stop construction of houses on wetlands.

 

“Policy governing wetlands has not been enforced and EMA has no muscle to stop housing developments on wetlands,” said Mr Gomba.

 

Water and Sanitation Officer Mrs Pahwaringira said, wetland conservation is not all about putting the right policies in place but also takes cognisance of awareness levels of communities as well as enforcement by the Environmental Management Agency.

 

Environmentalists seem to be sharing the same vision when it comes to the most appropriate way of conserving the remaining wetlands.

 

Environment Africa’s Programme Officer on Environmental Rights Mr Selestino Chari said wetlands should be given to communities to manage as in the case of the Conservation Society of Monavale, Cosmo.

 

If communities are given the mandate to manage wetlands, the burden on authorities will be reduced.

 

“Council is urging various organisations like Environment Africa and Cosmo to come up with local plans to protect the remaining wetlands,” said Mr Gomba.

 

Wetlands can be utilized in a way that is sustainable without affecting its various ecological functions.

 

 “If wetlands are to be utilized at all, they can be used as recreational facilities like parks or golf courses as this will not affect their ecological functions,” said an environmentalist Mrs Sue Burr.

 

Some environmentalists have suggested a better way of constructing houses on wetlands when there is real need to.

“In the event that wetlands are utilized for housing developments, the only sustainable way would be to build upwards as this would reduce the area to be cleared as was the case in Curitiba, a city in Brazil,” said Mrs Brazir.

 

Wetlands are a vital natural resource that is loosing the attention that it deserves and is currently degrading at an alarming rate hence the need to focus on quick remedial measures.

 

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