Epworth residents have petitioned the Ministers of Local Government and Environment over rampant destruction of wetlands in their area which they say is as a direct result of corruption by the Epworth Local Board.
In the petition dated August 6, 2020, the residents, represented by Epworth Residents Development Association, Combined Epworth Residents Trust, Kushinga Epworth Residents Association and the Epworth Urban Residents Association also expressed concern over the influx of illegal houses which they say are being facilitated by the Epworth Local Board working with land barons.
“We hereby petition your office to act on the corruption and mismanagement at the Epworth Local Board. This corruption has culminated in the destruction of wetlands which are the main source of water for Epworth and Greater Harare residents. The wetlands are being destroyed through illegal housing developments facilitated by members of the Epworth Local Board and by land barons,” read the petition.
The residents highlighted that there is a fraudulent local development plan that was being used by the Epworth Local Board to approve illegal housing developments.
“Housing developments in Epworth are not in line with the approved Local Development Plan for Epworth. A fraudulent Local Development Plan is being used when housing construction occurs. All house built using the fraudulent local plan are located on wetlands.
The Epworth Local Board demolished houses built using the original Local Plan intending to establish houses using the fraudulent local plan. Residents who had their houses demolished have taken the Epworth Local Board to court over the matter,” read the petition.
The residents said that most of the land in Epworth has been built on and land barons are now targeting the few remaining open spaces that happen to be wetlands.
According to the residents, the housing developments are also being carried out in the absence of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates
Some of the wetlands in question “are in Ward 7 near Jacha River and Mabvazuva School. Jacha River stretches from Ward 1 through ward 2 and 5”.
“Most if not all of Epworth residents are relying on groundwater through wells and borehole for water and the destruction of wetlands means the water table is receding and some wells and boreholes are drying up. This is resulting in the worsening of the water crisis in Epworth.
The Epworth Local Board intends to establish an underground piped water system that will supply residents with water. This is a noble initiative however unless the remaining wetlands in Epworth are preserved then this underground piped water scheme will fail as wetlands purify and store water underground,” read the petition.
The Epworth residents requested the Ministers of Local Government, July Moyo and the Minister of Environment, Mangaliso Ndlovu to tour the area for a situational assessment with relevant departments from the Epworth Local Board and other concerned stakeholders.
Epworth Local Board Chairperson, Batanai Masunda did not respond to calls as well as questions sent to him over the issue.
Moved by the rampant destruction of wetlands, which act as water sources for Harare, the Harare Wetlands Trust (HWT) has made efforts to capacitate residents’ associations as well as community based organizations to preserve wetlands in their various areas.