By Ruvimbo Chatyoka
ILLEGAL settlements on the country’s wetlands have exposed irregularities and inadequacies in settlements siting, planning and management by local authorities, thereby, impacting on livelihoods, through household and business losses, a recent cabinet report has said.
Heavy rains have been flooding settlements on wetlands and in low lying areas, and destroying houses and property, with the relocation of affected households turning out to be the only viable option.
Last week, Zimbabwe joined the globe in commemorating World Wetlands Day amidst a dire scenario where the nation is reported to be on the brink of running out of wetlands. Of the available wetlands in the country, a meagre 21% are stable while 18% are severely degraded and 61% moderately degraded.
Addressing the nation, recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa castigated the construction activities taking place on wetlands.
“Government is however deeply concerned with the illegal expansive construction in wetlands and river basins as well as the construction of houses without the provision of requisite infrastructure such as road, water, sewer, and electricity,” said President Mnangagwa.
Henceforth, the President added that relevant ministries are being constituted in working groups that will focus on social services delivery, as well as, negative impact of the chaotic, unplanned illegal settlements in growth points, towns and cities.
Further to that, the President stated, “…the Environment Management Agency (EMA) should identify and designate all wetlands around the country as unsuitable spaces for human settlements.”
As a response to this tragedy befalling citizens, Cabinet has created task teams to correct the instituting strategies to avoid settlements in illegal space, which will be chaired by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga by mapping of wetlands and other ecologically sensitive spaces at growth points, towns, cities and peri-urban areas.
The exercise shall be expanded to cover the whole country to draw up a national master plan of all ecologically sensitive and related development.
In addition, the task teams will provide the provision of off-site infrastructure and general comprehensive servicing of land in anticipation of allocation of stands and constructing of structures, according to some plans and standards.
Moreover, the task team will identify and quantify all settlements in flood-prone areas on illegal spaces and other irregular places and thereby enabling the government to establish the magnitude of likely displacements from unavoidable demolitions.
The Cabinet brief stated that a National Wetlands Policy and guidelines are being formulated in order to protect the environment for sustainable development.
By Ruvimbo Chatyoka