IRRESPONSIBLE behaviour and political pressure to settle people on wetlands have contributed immensely to the pollution of the major source of Harare water, Lake Chivero, thereby affecting the supply chain, mayor Herbert Gomba has said.

Speaking during a wetlands indaba at Town House yesterday, Gomba said it was everyone’s duty to preserve wetlands, adding they were a critical part of the environment.

“They hold and replenish water that is withdrawn through boreholes and wells. Without the swamps or wetlands we cannot survive,” he said.

“Lake Chivero is now heavily polluted largely through human action. It should have been decommissioned a long time ago but we are still using it because there is no other source of water. The problems of water in Harare also stem from the destruction of wetlands through illegal settlements and farming activities.”

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“I am urging the politicians to desist from encouraging people to settle on wetlands. It is causing major problems at the lake which will result in less water for the city,” he said.

“Ironically when we tell people to move from the wetlands they come to council and demand that we give them land elsewhere because it is enshrined in the Constitution, yet their actions would have been illegal. They are even supported by human rights groups, yet they are violating our residents’ right to clean and safe water.”

During commemorations to mark World Wetlands Day in Harare on Wednesday, Environment minister Mangaliso Ndlovu told journalists that land barons were responsible for the illegal settlements dotted around the city.

“Infrastructure development through commercial and housing construction projects are the greatest threats in the urban set-up of the country, particularly in Harare and Chitungwiza as they have turned our wetlands into a concrete jungle,” he said.

“If we continue business as usual we will lose our wetlands in urban areas by 2040, impacting on ecological goods and services such as water provisioning in the right quantity and quality.”

Chitungwiza council spokesperson, Lovemore Meya told NewsDay yesterday that they had introduced stringent measures to curb development of human settlements on wetlands.

Wetlands provide livelihoods for more than one billion people worldwide and also provide ecosystem services worth US$47 trillion annually.