Residents in the western suburb of Marlborough have stepped up to save Harare’s wetlands, under threat due to human activities.
On Saturday 18 January, the Marlborough Environmental Action Group (MEAG) was launched to spearhead the conservation of the 180-hectare Marlborough vlei.
According to Charity Bango, councillor for ward 17 in which the vlei can be found, and also coordinator of the community action group, the conservation of the wetland is critical to the water cycle of greater Harare’s conurbation. “We decided to form this environmental group after noticing many changes happening to our environment,” said Charity Bango.
Professor Christopher Magadza from the University of Zimbabwe and member of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve committee (see page 3) applauded the Marlborough community for joining forces in conserving Harare vleis.
He said contrary to the view peddled in some quarters that people who are promoting the protection of wetlands are anti-development, the conservation of wetlands is critical.
He said that recent research has shown that boreholes supplying much of Harare’s northern suburbs are drying up, while rivers like the Marimba, Mukuvisi and the Manyame now have low levels of flow owing to massive human activities that have taken place on wetlands. “Vleis such as Marlborough are Harare’s primary source of water feeding water into the city’s supply dams downstream. With rapid urban expansion and infilling, these vleis are under considerable threat from developments, agriculture and pollution,” said Professor Magadza.
Commending the formation of MEAG, the Mayor of Harare Bernard Manyenyeni urged other wards in the city to follow suit and make the city habitable.
Marlborough Vlei is situated 13 km north of Harare’s city centre next to the Red Roofs, a northern extension of the low-density suburb of Marlborough. It is a well-developed wetland around 180 hectares in extent. Its northern boundary is the Gwebi River whose upstream catchment is fed by other important Harare vleis: the Borrowdale Vlei, Northern Vlei, Vainona Vlei, Avonlea Vlei and Ashbrittle Vlei.
Marlborough Vlei is a seasonally wet grassland area that supports a rich diversity of flora and fauna. This vlei is made up of deep, rich, dark, heavy clay soils that hold and clean tonnes of water in the rainy season thus regulating the water flow into Gwebi River. A small stream starts at Mukwa Close on the edge of Red Roofs and flows through Marlborough Vlei into the Gwebi. The Gwebi River is a tributary of the Manyame River, flowing into Lake Manyame.
Marlborough Vlei is a protected wetland in terms of the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 2o:27) Declaration of the Protection of Harare Wetlands section 113(1). The area is known among the bird watching community locally and internationally. Special sightings can be made of the streaky-breasted flufftail, blue quail and the pink-throated longclaw.
“Members of Marlborough community are encouraged to conserve the vlei by joining the Marlborough Environment Action Group,” says Maxwell Maturure, a planning and monitoring officer with the Environmental Management Agency’s Bluffhill office. “Ensuring wetland conservation should be everyone’s responsibility for the benefit of the current and future generations.”
Other guests attending the meeting in January included the MP for Marlborough, the District Officer, the environmental officer from City of Harare, Waste Management and the EMA official. Over 100 people attended. EMA intends for Local Environment Action Plans to be taken up by communities throughout the city by the end of this year.