Residents, industrialists and environmentalists have blamed City of Harare (CoH) and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) for the continued pollution of Harare’s Rivers.
The Marimba River, which passes through the high-density suburbs of Warren Park, Kambuzuma, Kuwadzana and Mufakose, is filled with raw sewage from burst council sewer pipes. At the same time, the overloaded sewage treatment facilities in Chitungwiza still leak tonnes of sewage into the Nyatsime River which feeds into Lake Chivero. This creates a host of problems including the proliferation of the water hyacinth weed and high treatment costs for when the water is sent back to the city’s taps.
Moreover, numerous industries are polluting several streams and rivers across the Manyame catchment area, but for what appear to be financial reasons, they have not been stopped by the authorities.
Whilst CoH has identified the guilty parties including the adjoining towns of Norton, Ruwa and Chitungwiza as well as over 400 factories, they have failed to effectively curb pollution from these sources. Instead, culprits pay fines on an ongoing basis, providing the authorities with much needed income, but at the expense of the environment they are mandated to protect. It has become clear that the penalties are not prohibitive and are paid willingly by the polluters.
The chairperson of the Food and Beverage Cluster, Dr Tapera Mazodza, says that CoH and EMA are implementing a system inconsistent with safeguarding the environment. Indeed, Mazodza believes that their actions are in fact encouraging pollution. The food and beverage industry in Harare has more than 1,000 members of which only 15 are committed to and complying with environmental law.
During a recent stakeholder tour of the Morton Jaffary water treatment facility, EMA Director Petronella Shoko, admitted that CoH has not paid pollution fines to the agency and that they have of late struck an unspecified mutual agreement with them. This triggered debate among stakeholders, suggesting that CoH and EMA dealings need greater scrutiny and transparency.
Dr Tamuka Nhiwatiwa from the University of Zimbabwe Department of Biological Sciences says that the pollution of Harare’s water sources is forcing residents and Council to start making alternative arrangements that are very costly. The bill for treating the polluted water from Lake Chivero is already sitting at $3 million to $4 million per month, an expense that is driving CoH to introduce pre-paid water meters for households. The meters have been widely condemned by residents.
Director of the Harare Residents Alliance, Keith Charumbira says CoH and EMA should try and work towards stopping further pollution of Harare Rivers. He describes the nature of their current alliance as “retrogressive” in combating the problem. “Fines collected from the polluters should be ploughed back into reclaiming or addressing the pollution of the rivers,” he said.
The Harare Residents Trust (HRT) says it is clear that the local authority and EMA are not committed to stamping out the problem of the pollution of rivers. “From our analysis of the revenue being collected, it is clear that polluters are council and EMA’s cash cow. This money has reportedly financed a lot of council operations such as payment of salaries and administration costs,” said HRT officer, Pretty Chabuda.
Image: Lake Chivero, our water supply, ends up being the dumping ground for many industries
Picture by Harry Davies