Recent revelations of Chinese construction in wetlands threatening the Mukuvisi River in the area near the German Shepherd Dog Club in Braeside shows another profligate disregard for these areas and their importance to Harare’s water situation.
Harare, like most of Zimbabwe, is caught in a situation where water has become a major problem both due to the drought and the financial situation in the country.
Beside the macro-economic state of the country, the continued growth of Harare has become one of the threats to Harare’s wetlands as population growth increases the need for residential spaces.
According to BirdLife Zimbabwe, a conservation organisation, Harare depends on wetlands for its water but these are rapidly dying out due to the infiltration by the people.
“Harare’s major water source originates from the vleis and open green spaces within and surrounding the city.
“Many are now being sacrificed to development, being polluted by waste and being degraded by informal urban agriculture”.
These developments have brought the City of Harare into conflict with conservationists, developers, residents and land barons.
The conservationists argue that the death of these water vleis will be dire for Harare.
A vlei is an important type of wetland typical of the Mashonaland Plateau. Even though it may seem to be dry during the winter season and droughts, it is actually storing water under the ground which it releases slowly into the streams and rivers – a natural regulator.
Greater Harare and its environs sit in the headwaters of the Manyame and Gwebi catchment basin and the capital city depends on Chivero and Manyame which are actually downstream of itself.
According to the organisation, approximately 6.5 million people rely on this invisible source for their water supply.
Further to the provision of water, wetlands are also important as an efficient carbon sink than forests (carbon dioxide accounts for at least 60% of the effects of global warming).
Control of groundwater flow, which prevents river siltation and land erosion, as well as depositing nutrients to maintain wetlands biodiversity.
The gradual destruction of these wetlands means that one of Harare’s potent water sources is being destroyed and worsens any future scenarios in terms of water provision, climate state and the balance of the ecosystem.
Fighting to stop this fatal slide has been an uphill task so far as the local government authorities have proved weak to stand against those going against the specific by-laws regulating the use and preservation of wetlands.
The Longcheng facility is another hallmark failure by authorities to follow the law and stave off anyone about to break the law.
The continued sprouting of residential stands in other such places is further testament to how the fight has certainly lost its soul with a situation where Council is even accused of offering those wetland stands.
Just like climate change, the wetland issue is a serious danger whose long term and negative effects will be felt by generations to come.