HCC blames EMA and politicians for wetlands destruction

HARARE-Harare City Council (HCC) says the country’s laws and powerful politicians are hampering the local authority’s efforts to protect wetlands under its jurisdiction.

Harare City Council Mayor Herbert Gomba

HCC environmental management committee chairperson, Councillor Hebert Gomba, who is now HCC Mayor, recently told legislators from Parliament’s Portfolio Committees on Environment, Water, Hospitality Industry, Local Government Rural and Urban Development and Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs that the Constitution was defective and prevented local authorities from removing illegal settlements even from wetlands.

“It has been difficult to remove people occupying wetlands. We need to deal with this aspect to ensure that wetlands will not be invaded and structures erected on them,” said Gomba during a workshop on legislation and protection of wetlands held in Harare and organised by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Harare Wetlands Trust.

Gomba said powerful politicians were ordering their supporters to invade wetlands in the city. “Politicians are marshalling their supporters to invade wetlands because they want to win votes and because it’s happening within Harare and because you guys don’t know the historical background behind the erection of the structures there, you would assume it’s the City of Harare that has approved these developments,” he said.

Gomba said such people who are developing some structures on wetlands must be punished severely or else the problems will persist.

He said that in some instances it was impossible to stop developments on wetlands because the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) would have an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) without consulting the local authority.“This leaves us in a fix. Sometimes residents object to development in certain areas but again it’s difficult because sometimes EMA would have given an EIA to the applicant,” said Gomba.

Gomba said certain institutions were involved in corrupt behaviour and this was impacting on the City of Harare’s ability to protect wetlands. He appealed to Parliament to investigate such incidences adding that the City of Harare is willing to provide evidence.

Gomba appealed for more interaction between the local authority and Parliament saying this was key in raising awareness on gaps in the law and challenges created by the existing legislative framework.

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