The City of Harare will start cancelling leases of properties built on wetlands. The City’s Environment Department said the move was necessitated by the out-of-control developments taking place on Harare’s wetlands where some leases had been awarded for temporary structures and outdoor activities.
Outlining what the City is doing to combat rampant developments on wetlands to residents attending yesterday’s Wetlands Survival Forum (WSF) at Town House, Mr Muzofa, director of the Environment Department, said they have started by engaging people issued with leases from 2012 to present and briefing them on the new rules.
“We expect all prospective leaseholders to adhere to new rules we are putting up,” said Muzofa. “We will be cancelling leases that are not in accordance with council regulations as spelt by the environment management laws,” added Muzofa.
Muzofa also disclosed that the City is in the process of finalising the local environmental plan, which the city will use to plan and roll out an education program across the 46 wards of the city.
Councillor Chris Mbanga, who is chairman of the Health and Environment Committee, said council is the custodian of all natural resources in the city and it will throw its weight to preserve it.
“We are going to act, even if it means we are going to take the law breakers to court,” said Mbanga. He said the council would also be engaging stakeholders like EMA to help drive the message home.
Recently EMA, in partnership with residents in Marlborough, started a Local Environment Action Plan (LEAP) to train residents how to look after their environment.
“Think of the amount of water you use per day and the sources of this water which are Harare’s vleis or wetlands,” quipped Councillor Charity Bango who helped in the formation of Marlborough Environmental Action Group (MEAG).“Ensuring wetland conservation should be everybody’s responsibility for the benefit of the current and future generations.”
Harare wetlands have been under severe pressure from structural development over the past decade. This has driven stakeholders from all sectors and disciplines, including humanitarian, water, security and environmental organisations, wetland experts, hydrologists, geologists, journalists and concerned citizens to discuss this crisis and share information.
According to Allain Chimanikire, chairman of the WSF, developments on wetlands are still taking place unabated, including developments on gazetted wetlands. Harare has 26 Gazetted Wetlands in terms of section 113 of the Environmental Management Agency Chapter 20:27.
“The water service delivery situation is deteriorating further. Residents and factories continue to pollute our sources of water with impunity,” he said. “People have sometimes engaged in unsafe practices and become accustomed to not demanding better service standards. They have to devise their own coping mechanisms such as household level treatment of drinking water and waste management.”