Environmentalists Worry about Zimbabwe Wetlands

Environmentalists in Zimbabwe are concerned about the building of shoppingmalls and housing on wetlands. They say the development will affect watersupplies in heavily populated areas. Environmentalists say that if the workcontinues, the city of Harare may face water shortages or will need moremoney to purify its water.\r\n\r\nThose are sounds from one of the few remaining wetlands near Harare.Unlike other parts of the city, the area is covered with green grass and a fewtrees.\r\nOfficials say more than 250 bird species live in the wetlands. Some of thebirds travel there from other parts of the world.\r\nBut shopping malls and other buildings now cover much of the wetlands. Thepopulation of Harare has grown more than 100 percent over the past 10years. It is now estimated at more than two million people live in Zimbabwe’scapital. Most of the increase is a result of people moving to the city from ruralareas.\r\nAnother mall is planned for wetlands in Borrowdale, east of Harare. JimmyMuropa is a conservation field officer. He worries about this development.\r\n“We are not against any form of development, but what we are basicallysaying is that those malls or houses should actually be properly sited onhigher ground. We are for development but on appropriate ground. Simple.”\r\nScientists say wetlands clean up and store water. The purified water is slowlyreleased into rivers and lakes.\r\nHarare Residents Trust, a community group, says Zimbabwe‘s water pricesare now high because of the destruction of wetlands.\r\nPrecious Shumba is head of the trust.\r\n“The monitoring framework is very weak. The Environment ManagementAgency (EMA) does not follow laid down procedures when it comes toapproval of buildings. There is so much corruption. There is no monitoring. The only relief that is available to EMA and the council is to charge penaltiesfor violations. But they are not stopping, meaning to say that our wetlands willcontinue to go.”\r\nThe Environment Management Agency is a government group. Its job is toguarantee sustainable use of the environment in Zimbabwe. Steady Kangatais a spokesman for the agency. He says the group was trying to shareinformation about the importance of not building on wetlands. He denies thatHarare does little to enforce wetlands laws.\r\nZimbabwe laws are very comprehensive when it comes to wetlands. We are part of the Ramsar Convention pertaining to the proper utilization ofwetlands. We have even gone further to domesticate the provisions of theRamsar Convention. Wetlands are protected areas. But in the urban sectorthere is pressure for infrastructural development. “\r\nConservationist Dorothy Wakeling says the wetlands are important areas thatcannot be destroyed.\r\nThese wetlands are our only source of water. If we take all our wetlands ofHarare, we are taking away our water source. What are we going to do forreplenishing streams and rivers that feed into dam?”\r\nBut the demand for land for housing, businesses and offices continues toincrease.\r\nI’m Jonathan Evans. – VOA