City of Masvingo has assured EnviroPress that its envisaged expansion of the Central Business District (CBD) will not be done at the expense of the numerous pieces of wetlands that lie to the south of Mucheke River.
Council recently revealed plans to expand the commercial area to a large piece of land beyond the river, along the road to Beitbridge.
The land, however, incorporates various pieces of wetlands and waterways that would have huge implications for the stability of the environment if not properly managed and protected.
Part of that land had long been reserved for a provincial hospital project but council has since reached an agreement with government which has accepted an alternative piece of land in Clipsham, further down the road.
Masvingo Town Clerk Edward Mukaratirwa said the expansion plans have been designed in a manner which will protect every piece of wetland from damage in line with the country’s wetlands policy.
“Our plans to expand the CBD will not be done to the detriment of our environment and this includes wetlands and waterways. These will be protected and developed in a manner that is consistent with government regulations as enforced by the Environmental Management Agency (Ema),” said Mukaratirwa.
He said the wetlands will be developed into parks to make sure they are not corrupted by construction activity.
“Wetlands will be well-developed into parks and nothing further will be built on them. We also have natural waterways that will be developed into trenches so that we do not obstruct the natural flow of water downwards into Mucheke River,” he said.
A survey carried out by council has identified over a dozen small wetlands spread across the vast tract of land which is bound by Ndarama High School to the north and the DDF depot to the west.
A portion of the land has already been pegged into commercial stands, one of which was sold to retailer and wholesaler N. Richards Group which reportedly wants to develop its biggest business and office park in the country.
A notice of proposed sale put out by council shows that the N. Richards Group’s Stand Number 27565 Charumbira Street measures 12 598 Square Metres.
When asked if council’s assurances were convincing, Environmental Management Agency (Ema) Masvingo provincial spokesperson Brian Makani said his organisation had not yet seen the plan, and would only be able to give a comprehensive comment if the document became available to him.
“I haven’t got the plan from the local authority for assessment but as soon as we get it, we will analyse it and revert back to you,” said Makani but he had not done so by the time of publishing.
This report was made possible through support from WAN-IFRA Media Freedom’s Strengthening African Media Programme: Climate Change and Environmental Reporting. Views expressed here do not belong to WAN-IFRA.