Pardon Gotora Urban Scape
There are many swathes of land that were hitherto deemed undevelopable or degraded due to some legacy geophysical, social and economic issues.
This has prompted the rampant utilisation of arable flat lands overlooking the fact that Zimbabwe is an agro-based economy and there are generations to come who will require the same in the not so distant future.
Construction and mining activities have the worst and devastating effects to the environment, but we cannot do without these two economic pillars of development.
When construction and mining activities are at peak, it’s used as a barometer to measure economic development and economic growth. Needless to mention employment opportunities created as a result.
The Government’s revenue base is strengthened through taxation and increased disposable income. It reduces social spending from the Government’s resource envelope as it reduces the number of vulnerable groups such as the youths and women due to high employment rates.
However, the major challenge is experienced in the natural bionetwork. Vegetation and construction or mining do not see eye to eye. Sadly, the former often loses all the battles and eventually the war.
Land is maimed as the scramble for its utilisation heightens. No one wants to be left behind when it comes to access to a portion if it for diverse purposes.
The analysis will deliberately not delve much into the mining sector regardless of similar consequences to construction. In the construction sector, there is brick moulding, sand mining and road construction among others which involve bush clearance and excavations.
Bush clearing entails cutting down of vegetation, which is critical in the rain making process. Thus, the land is disturbed, the air is polluted by sand particles and the water cycle is inevitably smashed in the face.
Brick moulding and sand mining leave behind unpleasant legacies which need to be dealt with. The huge gullies created from these two activities are a huge eyesore.
For someone who lives somewhere near Harare, you do not have to drive far to witness this phenomenon. The Mt Hampden area is a typical example of what is being referred to in this instance. There is a place known as “Kumakomba”, where illegal brick moulding is rampant close to the “legal” brick moulding activities.
Settlements exist in these areas due to the livelihood drawn from the brick-making. The major economic driver is brick-moulding and for as long as sand/clay is still available, life goes on. No one seems to care about the land itself.
You go to areas around Seke communal areas, particularly soon after the bridge linking Unit L and Chirasavana Business Centre, and some parts of Harare South, sand mining is the major perpetrators of violence against land and/or the environment.
The areas are rich in pit sand, a very critical raw material in construction as it is mixed with cement to make mortar. Zimbabwe’s most obedient servants in construction are bricks and mortar.
It is not uncommon to see those trucks popularly known as “Gindironi”, whatever that means, referring to those old model trucks which even if the Environmental Management Agency operatives wish to impound the vehicle, they cannot start the engine, neither can they drive it because the operators run away with the five litre diesel plastic container and the pipe transmitting fuel to the engine. Most of these vehicles equally pollute the air due to emissions since the engines have outlived their shelf life and lack proper maintenance.
The solution comes from land reclamation. Instead of engaging in endless running battles with illegal sand miners and brick-moulders, which is a reactionary endeavour, there is need to develop those areas where they are operating.
The authorities should come up with integrated plans to reclaim the gullies left behind. Such land can be used to build walk-up flats in line with Government’s thrust on densification.
The gullies can be developed and converted into basements to be used as offices or parking lots if deemed unfit for human habitation.
There used to be a misconception that mountains were undevelopable and some remained intact and unallocated for a while. The only activities were coming from wood harvesting during times of load-shedding. There is a very interesting trend that we have witnessed in the past decade or so.
The affluent have been given the opportunity to flex their financial muscles by building houses uphill.
The views or scenery generated from such developments are a marvel to watch. Most of the leaf suburbs are emerging in the mountains, such as Umwinsidale, Carrick Creagh, Chishawasha Hills and Glen Lorne to mention, but a few.
This is classy land reclamation at its best. The terrain makes it unusable for agricultural purposes, thereby making it suitable for housing development.
The National Heroes Acre typifies massive construction work that utilised land that is not arable. I have seen a trend where a few “mountains” in the Warren Park locality and Cold Comfort have been built-up. The only challenge has to do with densification.
It is high time we should start considering construction of high rise buildings at the foot of those mountains if we are scared of the costs.
Singapore is reclaiming land from the sea, buying sand from Malaysia to fill-up the sea banks to create land for housing development. So, instead of chewing agricultural land, there is nothing stopping us from reclaiming all previously condemned land for housing development.
In Harare South, such land can be used to create state-of-the-art civic centres or to build flats that will address unavoidable relocations during the upcoming regularisation and sanitisation programmes.