By Thandiwe Garusa
ILLEGAL housing construction projects in Harare and Chitungwiza are the greatest threat to urban settlement for turning preserved “wetlands into concrete jungles”, Environment Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu has bemoaned.
Addressing journalists and other environmental agents in Harare Wednesday, Ndlovu said illegal car sale agents were also some of the biggest culprits who were turning wetlands into unauthorised business premises.
“My ministry has noted with concern the growing pressure and conflict in the manner in which wetlands are managed in Zimbabwe,” Ndlovu said.
“Infrastructure development through commercial and housing construction projects are the greatest threats in the urban setup of the country particularly in Harare and Chitungwiza as they have turned our wetlands into a concrete jungle.
“On the other hand, unsustainable agricultural activities, resources extraction and veld fires are major threats to rural areas by 2040 impacting on ecological goods and services such as water provisioning in the right quantity and quality.”
He told the media that government was seized with stopping the illegal practice and wetlands management guidelines would be available in the next three months.
“Government is however seized with this matter and is in the process of formulating wetlands management guidelines which should be ready for use during the first quarter of 2020.
“Management of our wetlands is not just responsibility of the ministry and EMA (Environmental Management Authority). There are various stakeholders who are involved in this and among them is City of Harare who in most cases issue or parcel out land to developers. This has also presented the challenges that we are seized with.
“Where you have people with title deeds in a way they say they are entitled to develop the land that they have been allocated and that land being a wetland. We have also targeted over and above gazetting the map, to issue those guidelines possibly before the end of the first quarter and the questions of land ownership will be provided in the guidelines,” he said.
EMA director Aaron Chigona also emphasised on the need to stop construction on wetlands.
“Our wetlands for Zimbabwe are not what we can tamper with to do construction on them because we know what they provide and that is what we are trying to protect. It is disconcerting to note that wetlands are vanishing three times faster than forests and this is a worrisome development,” he said.
“Zimbabwe is home to approximately 1 271 wetlands covering 3% of the total land area. Of the above wetlands, a meagre 21% are stable, 61% moderately degraded and 18% are severely degraded.
“This is a cause for concern and as a country, we need to devise strategies to sustainably manage our wetlands for the benefit of the present and future generations.”