UZ barred from constructing shopping complex on wetland

HARARE- The High court has stopped the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) from proceeding with the construction of a shopping complex on a wetland situated near the university’s premises, a development which is threatening the ecosystem of the area.

Under threat…Wetlands which are crucial sources of water are vanishing as people invade and occupy them

The UZ was hauled to the High Court by the Trustees of Harare Wetland Lands Trust, who were represented by Advocate Lewis Uriri instructed by Fiona Iliff of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and who filed an urgent chamber application seeking to stop the university from constructing a shopping complex on a wetland.

The UZ was listed as the first respondent while the Environment Management Agency (EMA), the City of Harare and the Upper Manyame Sub-catchment Council were the second, third and fourth respondents respectively.

High Court Judge Justice Pisirayi Kwenda ruled that the UZ cannot proceed with the construction of the shopping complex without obtaining prior environment assessment certification and compliance with other relevant statutory requirements.“The first respondent (UZ) is hereby ordered to cease all construction work related to the development and remove all machinery and construction on site,” reads part of the court order issued by Justice Kwenda.

In its application, the Trustees of the Harare Wetlands argued that the construction was unlawful, pointing out that the developers had not been issued with an Environment Impact Assessment certificate by EMA as stipulated by law. The applicants further charged that the UZ was served with an environment protection order from EMA in terms of section 37(4) of the Environment Management Act to suspend the development pending the completion of the Environment Impact Assessment process but the UZ failed to comply with the order. “At some unknown date to the applicant, the First Respondent (UZ) unlawfully restarted the construction process in secret. The applicant was contacted anonymously on 26th June 2018 to notify of the developments and was provided with documentation,” reads part of the application by the Trustees of the Harare Wetlands.

They further argued that if the development proceeded, the grounds would be tarred and the final buildings constructed, causing irreparable damage to the environment from the air and noise pollution, the drying up of the source of the Marimba River, pollution of the river, siltation of the river, degradation of the delicate ecosystem of the wetland, affecting flora and fauna and the destruction of the wetlands’ functions, including water purification, water storage, and carbon and heat sinks as confirmed by City of Harare and Upper Manyame Catchment Council.

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