By Catherine Murombedzi
WETLANDS play an important part in environment preservation.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, so wetlands need to be protected.
Zimbabwe, being a country with no seashore, wetlands soak up water, cleanse it before letting it flow to the rivers which then empty into dams.
The impact of wetlands can not be ignored since doing so is tantamount to pulling the rug from under our feet.
Demand for urban housing and poor planning has resulted in wetlands abuse, with settlements taking over the once green belts.
Wetlands are supposed to lie fallow, with no buildings or any cultivation intruding.
Wetlands are not only an underground source of water to dams, they shelter flora and fauna.
Currently, a wetland in Mabelreign, Sentosa area near Ellis Robins Boys High School in Harare is under ‘invasion’.
Buildings are sprouting all over the place.
The area is now an eyesore.
Residents have held meetings in the past and petitioned relevant city authorities with no success.
During a meeting with Ward 16 councillor Denford Ngadziore two weeks ago, residents bemoaned the epidemic-in-the-making, as the wetland saw construction of houses and office blocks.
A resident said their cries fell on deaf ears and they were now petitioning the Government to intervene and stop the environmental degradation.
“The relevant council offices supposed to help us have ignored our petition for the last year. We are therefore now appealing to Government to intervene and stop the rape of the wetlands,” said Lynley Cahill, a member of Sentosa Residents Association.
The area, like most Harare suburbs, has no consistent water supply, hence residents have dug wells or drilled boreholes in their backyards.
Normally, a borehole can serve a community of 20 houses or more.
However, the current status in most urban areas sees each family drilling their own in the backyard.
With the construction of houses and offices in Sentosa, a health hazard looms in the near future as the wetland use changes.
The buildings under construction are at various levels, with the wetland disappearing.
Wetlands help feed water into dams and the chocking of wetlands will be felt in a decade or more when water supposed to accumulate in dams dwindles.
According to Cahill, letting wetlands ‘disappear’ is tantamount to killing the future generations.
Said Cahill: “Harare will not have sufficient water very soon. “Right now, the city has water challenges.
“The Sentosa wetlands have a river starting here, the Marimba River which feeds into Lake Chivero has its source there.
“That flow is under threat, with the wetland sucked dry, the ecosystem is disturbed.
“Already, squatters live along the river while sewage flows in too. Innocent lives have succumbed to a threat which could have been avoided.
“We are addressing the symptoms and not the cause.
“The Government has to intervene and stop the pillaging of wetlands.
“This is not only an issue in Sentosa, as many more wetlands are under siege.”
Rigs are drilling boreholes in the area with building material delivered.
This could be the end of another greenbelt as brick and mortar buildings take over.
Efforts to get a comment from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) spokesperson were unfruitful at the time of going to print.