THE stern warning by the Government to land barons and individuals parcelling out land on wetlands should be taken seriously.
According to environmental experts, a wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded or saturated by water, either permanently or seasonally. Such places should be protected at all costs as they play a major role in the provision of clean water, protecting people from flooding as well as combating climate change.
However, wetlands are now being parcelled out to desperate home-seekers in most parts of Zimbabwe, especially in major cities where the demand for land is high.
This practice has been going on for years with activists’ pleas falling on deaf ears. A number of schools, houses and shopping malls are being erected on wetlands despite serious concerns being raised by environmental activists.
Some of the land barons, selling both commercial and residential stands on wetlands, have been doing it for a long time now.
Others still have pending court cases which have been dragging for some time. In 2017, an environmental lobbying and advocacy practitioner, Sandra Gobvu, said a wetland acts like a sponge which absorbs water and then recharges underground water so that the water table remains high.
This alone shows that we should never let our wetlands be turned into residential areas, given this has a huge bearing on climate change.
On February 28, we ran a story where the Minister of Housing and Social Amenities, Daniel Garwe, warned land barons and individuals for endangering people’s lives by selling land on wetlands.
The Minister reiterated that the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy was clear that no one is going to build on wetlands.
He said the Government has already started building houses in safe lands to relocate people in risky areas.
This shows that the Government is concerned about the welfare of its people. The Minister said those who will be found building in wetlands face arrest.
His warning should be taken seriously considering the consequences of flooding, which has left a trail of destruction in urban areas.
Minister Garwe’s call should come as good news to environmental activists, who have been raising alarm for years. Wetlands are important in minimising the threat of flooding, which has become the norm in most suburbs in urban areas in Zimbabwe, whenever it rains.
Some of the new settlements built on wetlands in some parts of Chitungwiza, Budiriro and other areas in Harare really expose the residents to a lot of dangers.
A number of families have been left stranded each time it rains.
This could have been avoided had people built their settlements in safe places. People should always consult local authorities, whether it is safe to set up settlements in new areas.
Most of the areas have been condemned but desperation, and greed from the land barons, appear to be driving people to set up settlements on wetlands.
However, desperation should never be taken as an excuse, when people’s lives are at risk.