20 September 2021
We the organizations here present,
United as a coalition working towards wetlands preservation in the Harare Metropolitan Province,
Gravely Concerned by the construction of houses and a vocational centre at Cleveland wetland/catchment area and concerned that the construction will adversely affect water delivery and disaster preparedness plans against flooding as we head towards the 2021-2022 rain season,
Disturbed, by the continued construction activities in the Cleveland Catchment when an Environmental Protection Order was issued to the developer by EMA,
Outraged, by the disregard of the newly gazetted Harare Wetlands Map,
Acknowledging our inalienable right to life, to clean water and a clean environment as provided for in the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe as well as the role wetlands play in water delivery and climate change resilience.
Maintaining thatthe destruction of wetlands through construction of buildings in Harare Metropolitan Province remains one of the contributors to the water challenges bedeviling Harare and flooding of homes that rocked Harare in past years.
The evidence of the past is clear that people whose houses are built on wetlands have been experiencing perpetual flooding within their homes every rain season, hence allowing construction of houses in any wetland is a recipe for disaster.
In relation to disasters posed by construction of houses in wetlands, we view that this will burden already depleted local authorities and national budgets,
Worried that the property developer on Cleveland wetland was issued an Environmental Protection Order by EMA and still continued to disregard the order; and worried that events at Cleveland Catchment area reflects the current wave of destruction of wetlands at national level and by the gap that exist between policy and practice on protection of water sources and ecologically sensitive areas in our country.
Following reports, we made to the City of Harare and the Environment Management Agency in the last week. This follows our routine engagements with relevant authorities on the urgency to protect wetlands from construction of buildings, illegal urban agriculture and sand poaching.
We are disappointed that the authorities have not taken decisive action to halt this unfortunate situation. What is more worrying is we are heading towards the rain season and weather forecasts from the Meteorological Services Department show that Harare is likely to get above normal rainfall, the same prediction that happened last rain season and we got serious flooding of houses constructed on wetlands.
We contend that the construction of buildings is at the heart of the water challenges and flooding disasters hitting local authorities.
The water supply situation in Harare remains dire. The City is producing 417 megalitres per day, 60% of which is unaccounted for water. The agenda of wetlands preservation remains urgent. There seems to be no clear plan to use the Harare Wetlands map to guide spatial planning in Harare Metropolitan Province.
We implore the Government to urgently ensure that Harare Wetlands map guide spatial planning within Harare Metropolitan Province.
We state that any public official both elected and non-elected who, promote, support, sustain or catalyze destruction of wetlands is not fit to hold public office and he or she is a threat to water security
We thus make the following demands as Combined Harare Residents Association and Community Water Alliance:
v Improved coordination among government departments, agencies and local authorities on environmental and water management plans. The newly developed Harare Wetlands map should guide spatial planning within the Metropolitan Province.
v Government must respect international treaties, domestic laws and its policies by immediately stopping construction activities currently underway in the Cleveland Catchment Wetland area.
v Full implementation of devolution as provided by Chapter 14 of the constitution and allow citizens to have a voice on the management of natural resources within their local areas.
v Government and local authorities must not allow any further land grabs or invasions on any wetland and safeguard the abuse of regularization provisions in the regional Town Planning Act by politically connected land barons.
v Scaling up the wetlands agenda among CSOs and Residents Associations through establishment of a National Wetlands Coordination Forum and 10 Provincial Wetlands Coordination Forums in view of devolution.
v Political parties in Zimbabwe should come up with comprehensive and robust climate change policies that will include wetlands protection in their election Manifestos ahead of the 2023 elections.
v Local Authorities must come up with enforceable Climate Change Policies that recognize wetlands protection as part of climate resilience strategy
As an emerging nucleus of a Coalition on Wetlands protection we intend to do the following;
v Take legal action against the current developments in the Cleveland Catchment and other areas.
v Ratchet a campaign on organizing and mobilization of citizens to take charge of their wetlands within their local areas.
v Compliment and support local authorities and government efforts in the protection of wetlands
v Conduct an information blitz campaign that includes naming and shaming people involved in wetlands destruction.