Harare wetlands destruction nightmare A recent tour of Monavale Vlei, an outstanding example of the once extensive headwater wetland.

Blessings Chidakwa Municipal Reporter

The massive deterioration of wetlands in Harare over the past two years is a serious cause for concern with urgent and decisive intervention required amid reports that 2,000 different sites were invaded from 2019 to 2021.


This was contained in a report tabled on the current status of Harare’s headwater wetlands prepared by Dr Rob Cunliffe on behalf of Harare Wetlands Trust.


“The situation is continuing to deteriorate rapidly. During the two-year period from mid/late 2019 to late 2021, analysis of Google Earth imagery reveals development activities being carried out on over 2,000 different sites within the remaining extent of wetlands as mapped during early 2020,” Dr Cunliffe said.


He said Harare was facing a prolonged water crisis whereby the city authorities are unable to provide most residents with a safe and reliable water supply.


“This has forced many residents to use groundwater which in turn is leading to declining groundwater levels across the city.


“The widespread destruction of headwater wetlands is one of the primary causes of this disaster, with an estimated 50 percent reduction in remaining wetland extent over the period 2008-2019. In addition, most remaining wetland areas are now heavily degraded,” said Dr Cunliffe.


Dr Cunliffe said the headwater wetlands serve as essential natural infrastructure and play a key role in the delivery of clean water to the downstream water supply dams.


“In recent decades’ development has been allowed to encroach ever deeper into these headwater wetland areas, to disastrous effect.


“This has led to increased runoff, increased incidences of flooding, increased siltation of Lake Chivero and Lake Manyame, reduced recharge of groundwater, a reduced period of inflow to the supply dams, and reduced quality of water arriving in the supply dams,” he said.

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