On Saturday morning the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), in an unprecedented move, invited Marlborough residents and stakeholders to a meeting on the Marlborough Wetland. Working in partnership with the City of Harare, the aim was to engage with them and work towards a Local Environmental Action Plan (LEAP) for the wetland’s management.
Marlborough Vlei is just one of Harare’s recently gazetted wetlands and, like many of the others around the city, it faces huge threats from urban encroachment, subsistence agriculture and drainage of the water for other uses. This meeting was a major groundbreaker.
50 people turned up, including residents and other concerned citizens, city councillors, members of BirdLife Zimbabwe (BLZ), the Conservation Society of Monavale Vlei (COSMO) and the Wetlands Survival Forum. Half way through the meeting, urban farmers working out on the vlei were invited to join in, greatly enriching the dialogue and bringing in a group of major stakeholders.
Alleta Nyahuye from EMA began the discussion with a look at the value of wetlands to society and the services they provide such as water purification, flood attenuation, recharging of groundwater and prevention of the siltation of rivers. Steady Kangata, EMA’s environmental and publicity manager stressed that the importance of wetlands needs to be promoted. He says that a localised plan for managing wetlands around the city needs to be developed with residents and interested parties. All local authorities are supposed to have action plans for their areas and there is a need for such initiatives in every suburb. He pointed out that as Zimbabwe is a signatory to the international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands the country is mandated to protect these systems.
EMA stated that they are open to feedback from the public and that they are launching an anti-littering and dumping campaign in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Republic Police. This will make it an offense to dump or litter and offenders will be prosecuted. It was also mentioned that Harare was originally planned in relation to its wetlands and every suburb has green spaces which are the “lungs of the suburbs”. The Environmental Management Act has withdrawn leases of land within wetland areas and a map is available demarcating wetlands in the city. Unfortunately developments are taking place at times due to “special permission” being given. This was queried by the participants.
Unsustainable practices on wetlands were discussed at length with many examples given from around Harare. Both EMA and City of Harare provided contact details for reporting such issues. An action plan and key issues were then analysed and a framework of ways of tackling these and the responsible parties to take them on was drawn up.
There was a high level of participation during this process and views were expressed, with many suggestions put forward. The meeting concluded with a core community group being created in the interim to head up the further development of the action plan for Marlborough. A follow up meeting of this group and other interested stakeholders is being scheduled, where a formal committee will be formed.
Picture: stakeholders and residents discuss the issues on the vlei