Politicians blamed for decimation of wetlands in Epworth

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By Ndatenda Njanike

RAMPANT parcelling out of land by politicians as an election campaign gimmick or to remain in office, has been responsible for wetlands destruction in Epworth.

The vice has also been linked to recurrent water shortages in the sprawling Harare suburb.

Corruption and abuse of power are also among the factors leading to wetlands destruction in the giant suburb.

Epworth has seen a drastic fall of its water table as a result of people building on wetlands. recently toured the vast wetlands that have since dried, and caught up with stakeholders over the situation.

Residents’ grievances included water shortages, destruction of wetlands and abuse of donor sponsored boreholes.

Henry Kane, who acting director for Epworth Residence Development Association, blamed council’s allocation of residential stands on wetlands as the main cause of water shortages in the area.

“Inappropriate allocation of stands on wetlands by council has caused the shortage of water in Epworth and the destruction of wetlands,” he said.

Water shortages have seen residents fetch unsafe water from shallow wells.

He said the situation was so bad that residents wake up as early as five in the morning to fetch water and probably get it at 2 in the afternoon.

Lockdown regulations have been ignored because of the need for the precious resource.

“The situation here is so bad that people wake up around five in the morning without feeding only to get the water at around 2 in the afternoon.

“Lockdown regulations have been ignored as many queue up in large numbers not observing social distancing just to get water,” Kane said.

According to Samson Ziso, who is part of the Epworth Urban Residents Association, the suburb, once a wetland jewel, has now been turned into a vast dry area after unscrupulous politicians have seized pieces of land and parcelled it out for political gain.

“This area was a wet area until the wetlands began to be allocated for political advantage by politicians,” Ziso said.

“The situation is so bad that people are going to work without even bathing because of the water shortages.”

The vice has not ended with politicians as some residents have taken advantage of the crisis to line their pockets.

It emerged during the tour that some youths have seized control of donor funded boreholes and were now charging desperate residents seeking to draw the necessity from them.

The community boreholes, drilled near homes, have seen youths demand at least US$2 from those hunting for water.

“Residents have commercialised donor funded boreholes, the closest or the house or stand that the borehole is drilled becomes the responsible authority and demands payment for maintenance of the borehole.”

“Council is guilty for the destruction of wetland in Epworth and class action to take council to court was necessary,” said Peter Nyapetwa, who is the secretary general for Epworth Resident Association.

The suburb has a population of over 100 000 people has been seen as a Zanu PF political weapon since time immemorial.

The destruction of the wetlands in Epworth, like in many other areas in Harare, poses a huge threat to water availability given that Harare largely relies on underground water.

Wetlands are important features in the landscape that provide numerous beneficial services for people and for fish and wildlife.

Some of the services, or functions, include protecting and improving water quality, providing fish and wildlife habitats, storing floodwaters and maintaining surface water flow during dry periods.