Dorcas Mhungu Post Correspondent
The decision by Mutare City Council to sell a wetland and source of the river that flows through the park and Sakubva will stop its flow if the owner goes ahead with an intended development.
Sakubva River source is in TigersKloof near the Cecil Kop Game Park between Arcadia Road and Herbert Chitepo Street. Concerned residents are questioning the wisdom of the Council in selling the piece which is a wetland. It is alleged the wetland was sold to a senior council official years back who later sold it another prominent resident before the current owner.
When The Manica Post went to the location, there were men felling trees apparently in preparation for a development intended by the current owner.
“You need to expose the corruption of Council for selling this land. Workers began cutting down trees in preparation to build. We all know the destructive effects construction has on our wet lands.
“If we sit back and watch, as more of these wet lands are being destroyed, we are equally to blame. Please can you help me, to help us protect our wet lands, so that the river continues to survive,’’ an irate Mutare resident said in a written protest to the newspaper.
Contacted for comment, Mutare City Council spokesperson Spren Mutiwi said the land in question was allocated by council in 2000. “You will appreciate that the land was allocated way back before EMA came into being. The environmental management body came into force in 2003, through an act of Parliament and started to be operational in 2007 way back after the land in question was sold.
Prior to rolling out of development plan, the beneficiary first would obtain a licence from EMA, upon which development plans on the land in question will be approved by council.
In line with the statutory instrument 7 of 2007 which governs the Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection under which issues of wetlands are administered, the beneficiary should apply for permit to undertake any development.
“As we speak that process has not been done and as council we will be consulted by EMA during the licencing process as a stakeholder. That’s the reason why EMA issued an order to stop the activity on the land in question and as a stakeholder we are enforcing the SI 7 of 2007.
“The owner of the land in question has already been informed and is expected to comply with the regulation.
“As a local authority we are very conscious of the need to protect wetlands in line with the provisions of SI7 oF 2007. The law does protect the wetlands, but it leaves room for people to apply for any usage of the same,” Mr Mutiwi said in a written response.
When asked to name the people who have owned the piece of land, Mr Mutiwi further said: “Since early 2000, the land in question has changed hands. The land has changed ownership ranging from the original buyer. That’s all I can say for now.
Environment Management Agency manager for Manicaland, Mr Kingstone Chitotombe had this to say when asked to comment on the intended development on the wetland and river source: “It’s a case under investigation. It’s a wetland, a source of Sakubva River that should not be developed. Council has already been ordered to ensure no development takes place. Development in wetlands not only destroys the integrity of wetland ecosystems but also poses flood risks.”
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of 1971 and has domesticated provisions for the protection of wetlands under the Environmental Management Act (Cap 20;27), Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 on Environmental Management (Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection) Regulations and Government Gazette 380 of 2013.
The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that embodies commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of wetlands and to plan for the “wise use” or sustainable use of all of the wetlands in their
Failure to abide by the law is a crime that attracts a fine not exceeding level eight ($500 000) or to imprisonment not exceeding two years or to both such fine and such imprisonment. The Environment minister can serve a written order to refrain any development on any wetland.