Shocking levels of pollution in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, have seen the city degrade into one of the dirtiest cities in the world, Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said.
Muchinguri-Kashiri — who also lashed out at officials for illegally settling people on wetlands — expressed concern over continued depletion of the country’s flora, saying it was turning part of the country into a desert.
“Harare has become one of the dirtiest cities. We litter, throw kaylites and plastics out of our car windows. Our drainages are constantly blocked,” she said.
“All those cities we used to mock are now laughing at us,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said, adding “Rwanda has become better than us”.
“What type of a people have we become? These plastics end up in our dams. Can you imagine raw sewer in this day and age,” she said, in apparent reference to urban councils who have been discharging raw sewage into water bodies.
Muchinguri-Kashiri further said that “my ministry is very concerned about the high level of siltation of water bodies across the country”.
“A good number of our dams and weirs have lost from a quarter to over half of their storage capacity due to siltation,” she said.
She lamented bad land use practices such as stream bank cultivation, illegal settlements, settling on wetlands, mountain slopes and indiscriminate cutting of trees which were increasingly becoming rampant across the country.
High population growth and poverty have also opened the door for significant loss of soil fertility, soil erosion, deforestation, water depletion and loss of biodiversity.
Muchinguri-Kashiri said “chiefs are giving us problems by giving land in areas that are not suitable for human settlement”.
“We say whites were bad but they knew how to settle people. But now we say we are free yet we are destroying our trees, settling on wetlands and engaging in all sorts of environmental degradation. We really need a paradigm shift.”
The fragile state of Zimbabwe’s environment has now posed critical challenges to both human development and economic growth.
Turning to the water crisis, the former Women Affairs minister said she will push government to declare the water shortage a national disaster to enable mobilisation of donor assistance to alleviate the crisis.
She noted that Zimbabwe’s severe water crisis will not be over soon, with the impeding rains unlikely to improve the dire situation, which has been compounded by dangerously low national dam storage levels and massive pollution.
“We are expecting normal to above normal rainfall but even if it rains, it doesn’t mean things will improve,” she said.
The depressed dam levels which follow below normal rainfall during the 2015/16 season and an El Nino-induced drought have seen local authorities introducing stringent water rationing schedules.
At the same time, declining ground water levels have piled more misery on ordinary Zimbabweans who had turned to boreholes for solace.
“As of October 20, national dam storage levels are averaging 41, 9 percent which is 20, 4 percentage points below the normal average of 62, 3 percent for this time of the year,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said last week.
“Masvingo dams have the lowest levels averaging 21 percent while Mashonaland West are the highest at 73 percent full.”