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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Harare Wetlands


Only after the last tree has been cut down.
Only after the last river has been poisoned.
Only after the last fish has been caught.
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

Cree Indian Prophecy

11th October 2012


Whether it is due to greed, carelessness or just plain ignorance, the Zimbabwean authorities seem to turn a blind eye to the destruction of every aspect of the natural environment. Over 60% of our wildlife has been eliminated, millions of acres of trees have been chopped down, dry river beds have been damaged by gold panners and now, one by one, our precious wetlands are falling victim to this destruction.

Harare's wetlands play a very vital role in providing the City's water source. Everybody is aware of the severe water shortages we have been facing and this is made worse by the destruction of the wetlands.

Harare's major water source originates from the vleis and open green spaces around the city, many of which are now being destroyed by development, pollution and informal urban agriculture. A vlei is an important type of wetland. It is a low-lying, marshy grassland, covered with water during the rainy season, and even though it may seem to be dry during the winter season and droughts, it is actually storing water under the ground which it releases slowly into the streams and rivers.  

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is apparently fully aware of the vital role of wetlands for Harare's future survival because the minister declared 26 of these areas protected. This was gazetted on 27th July 2012.

Mr Ken Sharpe Jnr was contracted to build a new highway leading to Harare International Airport. The construction of the highway has been ongoing for quite some time now but the authorities are unable to pay Mr Sharpe for the work he has done. In lieu of payment, he has been given Warren Hills Golf Course where it is alleged that he plans to build a 5 star hotel. He has also been given the wetlands which constitutes about 21 hectares of land at the corner of Princes Road and Sherwood Drive in Meyrick Park. This has caused a huge outcry among conservationists because in conjunction with an International Christian Ministry and Kentucky Fried Chicken, he intends to build a conference facility and theme park. The servicing of this land will destroy the vital wetland. The conference facility will have a seating capacity of up to 10 000 and will include offices, a recording studio, bookshop and library. A sporting facility will also be constructed to provide recreational activities. Construction activities are confined to 3,6 hectares but the balance of the land, approximately 18 hectares will be converted to a theme park.

In addition to this, Mr Sharpe has also been given the wetlands in Borrowdale behind Dandaro Village where it is alleged that he plans to build the biggest shopping mall in Africa in partnership with the International Christian Ministry and Kentucky Fried Chicken. 

If these projects are allowed to proceed, it will mean the destruction of these very vital wetlands which supply precious water to Lakes Chivero and Manyame - in other words our drinking water. In addition to this, the wetlands support a wide range of organisms from aquatic invertebrates to fish, birds, reptiles and mammals. As usual, it is all about making money. If the Christian Ministry has enough money to partake in this construction, we wonder why they don't put their money to better use and help to feed the millions of Zimbabweans who are starving or improve their medical and educational facilities.

Although the go-ahead for these projects has already been granted, the general public is quite entitled to object to this development taking place and we would like to encourage as many people as possible to email their objections to the Environmental Management Agency - We need to jealously guard any existing wetlands because if these are destroyed, it will be a case of "no wetlands - no water." Let's all work together to keep our wetlands intact.  

Johnny Rodrigues
Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force
Landline:        263 4 336710
Mobile:           263 712 603 213

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force relies soley on public donations. Your donation can help to preserve the wildlife in Zimbabwe. If you would like to assist, please contact us.

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