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Uproar Over Mutare Wetland

Brenna Matendere

The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has warned against such a move while independent conservationists have already written a letter of protest to the Local Government minister, Daniel Garwe.

But the council is undeterred as it presses on with plans to build cluster houses on the headwater wetland that EMA designated as a restricted zone not suitable for residential or other projects.

The planned project is located on stand number 7568 in Arcadia Tigers Kloof in Morningside and is marked Reservation 46 on the EMA list of restricted areas in Mutare.

A Google Earth search by NewsHub shows that the planned wetland project is located between Nyadzonya and Batanai roads in Morningside where it takes a V-shape.

Arcadia Tigers Kloof wetland

Despite the fierce opposition that the intended housing project is facing from pressure groups like the Mutare Rivers Rehabilitation Initiative (MRRI), the city council still wants Garwe to approve its application for a change of status of the wetland.

Acting town clerk, Blessing Chafesuka, confirmed that the local authority applied for change of status of the zone, adding that residents were free to lodge formal objections to its planned housing project.

“Council resolved to apply to the minister of Local Government and Public Works for approval of a change of reservation, which application is still under the minister’s consideration.

“Stakeholders (must) note that council has not yet approved any development for cluster houses on the land in question until the change of reservation is approved,” he said.

In a letter dated 23 May addressed to Garwe, MRRI, through its founder Lynne James, said the area must be preserved for current and future generations.

“We understand that the Mutare City Council applied to your office for “Change of Reservation” of the above mentioned stand, which at this time is zoned as Reservation 46, being a public open space, and is therefore restricted against any development.

“We are writing to appeal for your assistance in protecting and preserving this wetland for all Mutareans, both current and future generations,” James wrote.

The environmental watchdog also decried the continued desecration of wetlands in Mutare in general.

“As Mutare wetlands stand today, this headwater wetland of the Sakubva River is possibly the last intact wetland in Mutare, every other wetland having already been destroyed by development, cultivation as market gardens, drainage by the municipality or cleared for other reasons.

“The situation is indeed dire, yet despite this, Zimbabwe is to host RAMSAR COP 15 in Victoria Falls next July. There is a disconnect here that needs to be rectified,” reads the MRRI letter to Garwe.

The RAMSAR initiative seeks to integrate wetland ecosystems and discourage the loss of wetlands.

On 25 May 2018, EMA served the council with an order—number 0007324—that prohibited developments on the Arcadia Tigers Kloof wetland.

“In Mutare, there are some wetlands which are earmarked or being developed, in particular the wetland on Stand 7568 Arcadia Tigers Kloof.  This order states: You do not allow any wetland to be constructed on as per section 20 (1) (a) (b) (c) (d) of SI 7 of 2017.”

In an interview, the MRRI director called for the protection of the wetland.

“With what we know now about wetlands, and the fact that Mutare has already lost so many of her wetlands to development and cultivation, this surely does not make sense.

“There is need to protect this headwater wetland into perpetuity for all residents, both in Mutare and downstream,” she told NewsHub.

Source: Uproar over Mutare wetland – News Hub Zimbabwe

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