ZLHR intervenes to save Harare’s wetland

HIGH Court Judge Justice Felistus Chatukuta on Thursday 14 December 2017 interdicted the Harare City Council (HCC) from proceeding with constructing a bus terminus and an informal sector traders’ market on a wetlands, a development which residents deemed could pose environmental and health threats to their families.

A house built in the midst of a wetland

The HCC had begun implementing a development project on Coronation Park for a bus terminus and a people’s market to be called Rhodesville Holding Bay.

This prompted some 20 aggrieved residents led by Munyaradzi Mutsai and Craig Theo Albrish from Harare’s Hillside and Eastlea suburbs, located near Coronation Park, an open wetland area, to petition the High Court through their lawyer Fiona Iliff of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, seeking an order to stop the HCC from proceeding with construction work.

Through the application, Iliff argued that the residents’ constitutional rights to a healthy environment, for the environment to be protected for future generations, and to safe, clean and potable water, were being infringed as the development would cause air, noise, and water pollution, and the immediate and long-term degradation of the wetland would also cause flooding and limit the applicants’ and all Harare residents’ water supplies.

The human rights lawyer argued that the wetland is a catchment area providing fresh water for Harare, the country’s capital city and that Coronation Park is a wetland reserved as a park by HCC and not fit for development of projects, which the local authority has embarked upon.

Iliff argued that the wetland forms part of the Chiraura River wetland ecosystem and as a wetland, Coronation Park performs the function of absorbing and purifying rainwater to provide clean drinking which feeds into Harare’s main water sources and also supports a local ecosystem of birds, animals and plant life.

Besides the HCC, the residents also listed the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, the Minister of Tourism, Environment and Hospitality Industry, the Environmental Management Agency, the Minister of Water Resources, Development and Climate and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority as respondents too in the urgent chamber application, which was opposed by the local authority.

Iliff further argued that the HCC and the other respondents did not notify or consult the aggrieved residents prior to commencing construction work on the project and as soon as the residents became aware of the project and raised their objections with the respondents, they received no relief as construction work continued.

After hearing arguments from the residents and the respondents, Justice Chatukuta on Thursday 14 December 2017, interdicted the HCC from continuing with all the construction work on the Rhodesville Holding Bay, bus terminus and the informal trader’s market at Coronation Park pending the determination of the residents’ application.

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