The destruction of Harare’s wetlands continues, with an unnamed developer starting construction on the Ashbrittle Wetland.
This wetland is an area of land to the north of Emerald Hill and northeast of Avonlea. It is bordered by the Golden Stairs Road to the east, to the north it extends to Edinburgh Drive.
According to Nick Takavadii, secretary for Imagine Avonlea Residents’ Association and member of the Wetlands Survival Forum, the development on the wetland is unfortunate and a disturbing factor in that the events are taking place at an important breeding time for birds.
“The constructor should have considered the environmental impact before proceeding to destroy the vlei,” said Takavadii.
Harare Residents’ Association has also expressed concern over the continued building of structures on wetlands. The Association notes that good stewardship of the environment should be incorporated into local development plans.
It says that with the issue of erratic water supplies dogging the city, the protection of wetlands should be treated with greater seriousness.
Deputy director in the Ministry of Local Government, Department of Physical Planning, Honesty Magaya maintains that the highest level of planning in the city is the Harare Master Plan. “The Greater Harare Master Plan provides details of where water bodies, water tables and water supply systems are located and where developments can and cannot take place,” he explained. He said it is the City that should have the final say on the planning and zoning of land for any development.
Construction on the Ashbrittle wetland comes barely weeks after the news that building work on the Highlands vlei has resumed. This had been stopped by the then Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (HN, August 2013) but now continues, apparently under instruction of the Environment Monitoring Agency (EMA). Repeated calls to clarify EMA’s position have been unsuccessful.
Construction on wetlands in Harare remains one of the major threats to water provision and biodiversity. Local and migrant birds have disappeared due to habitat loss.
Harare’s major source of water is from vleis and open green spaces around the city. Many are being given up to development, being polluted by waste and being destroyed by informal agriculture.
Wetlands deliver essential environmental, social and economic goods and services such as local level climate control, flood mitigation, food and act as regulators and providers of water. The link between water resources management and the wise use of wetlands cannot be separated.