Construction work on a project in Mount Pleasant was suspended last week following serious concerns over the loss of a wetland crucial for surface and ground water availability for the New Parliament Building in Mount Hampden.
The Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) has commenced construction of properties on land west of ART Farm.
The site, which is part of the headwaters of the Gwebi River, is sandwiched between Mount Pleasant and Mount Pleasant Heights, Harare.
Construction work at the site has been underway for several weeks with grading of access roads demarcating the area for development of residential properties.
Construction workers have been draining the deep mature wetland through abstraction by water bowsers ahead of commencement of building.
But the development has triggered off alarm bells among various stakeholders, who are questioning how approval was granted.
The construction is likely to impact the headwaters of the Gwebi River, which feeds Lake Manyame – one of the critical sources of water for Harare, surrounding communities and downstream residents.
Against the background of mounting concern over the loss of the wetland due to the proposed development, there was a site visit last week by a team made up of representatives from the Upper Manyame Sub-Catchment Council (UMSCC), officials from the City of Harare, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) and IDBZ.
UMSCC, which says it was never consulted and was hitherto unaware of the development, initiated the site visit.
It is concerned that in the near to long-term future, the development could result in the drying up of the Gwebi River.
Engineer Wensley Muchineri, the CEO of UMSCC told The Herald: “We asked them to suspend the operation with immediate effect because as UMSCC, we were not consulted and were not aware of it.
“When one is constructing a development near a wetland, one applies to the Catchment Council. In this case, this was not done and we raised a red flag. We asked them to stop. We are reducing our instruction to IDBZ in writing.”
UMSCC is a statutory water management body established by an Act of Parliament, Water Act of 1998 (Chapter 20:24).
It is made up of diverse stakeholders consisting of domestic ground water users, commercial farmers, small-scale commercial farmers, resettled farmers, large-scale farmers, small-scale miners, large-scale miners, rural district councils, urban town councils, industries and other deemed groups. The Herald understands that previously ZINWA submitted a report to IDBZ with its recommendations for the IDBZ to follow.
Apparently these recommendations are yet to be acted upon. An Environmental Impact Assessment certificate has conditions outlining recommendations requiring adherence to by the IDBZ. On June 15, The Herald approached the IDBZ for comment.
After noticing the prolonged absence of official comment from the IDBZ, on June 22, 2021 the paper followed up with a phone call, and then as advised an email to an official identified as P Zvobgo, said to be the interface with the media. Still, there has been no response on the Mount Pleasant development and the likely impact on the capital’s primary source of water.
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