By Matabeleland North Correspondent
HUNDREDS of desperate home seekers in Hwange have built homes near a stream and risk having their structures demolished as government seeks to protect wetlands.
This comes as government has moved to restart the Empumalanga West project in the coal mining town.
National Housing and Social Amenities Minister Daniel Garwe was in Hwange Friday to commission resumption of the housing project which had stalled because of lack of funding.
The housing scheme, targeting to allocate more than 2 000 housing stands, was initiated by the Hwange Local Board in 2014 but stalled after beneficiaries failed to pay US$50 monthly subscriptions.
The local authority then partnered the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) to carry on with the project in 2017 but it stalled again owing to inflation.
Government then took over the project and is now funding it.
Some sections of the project have been connected to water and sewer.
Some people, a majority of them being beneficiaries of the project, have already built structures with signs of growing impatience with the delays in implementing the project.
Project consultant Fumai Bhiza said there was need to redo the scope of the project because the initial designs had been altered by people who have built houses.
“Some beneficiaries have built houses on the land and if we consider 30 metre distance from the nearest houses to the river, we will remain without stands because of the terrain.
“We need to re-scope the project because the damage has been done. We can’t say we just carry on because some places have been eroded,” said Bhiza.
Local board authorities said there were about 400 housing structures that have been illegally built in the area.
While the area was set aside for housing, those who have built did not follow set guidelines and built on streams which could be wetland and could lead to floods.
At the same time, government policy entails that no human settlements should be established in an area before water, sewer and other social amenities are fully serviced.
Minister Garwe said the upcoming policy on wetlands will lead to removal of all housing developments from ecologically sensitive areas.
“We may have to remove all developments on wetlands once the policy on wetlands is out.
“What we want to avoid are floods, hence what we don’t want to do is to give people stands where the policy will remove them again,” said minister Garwe.
The Hwange Local Board waiting list is around 11 000.
Minister Garwe said the housing project is to resume immediately as it is part of government projects aimed at achieving vision