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Gravel, Sand Poaching Defaces Warren Park

HARARE- The once scenic landscape of Harare’s Warren Park suburb has over the recent years been defaced into incipient badlands and gullies.

By Staff Reporter 

Noisy trucks and excavators continue to meander atop Warren Park’s hillside landscape, slicing the mountains’ remaining sections for the lucrative gravel being transported to unknown destinations.

Environmental violations that have reached unprecedented levels persist as gravel and sand poachers continue to descend in the suburb without the hassle of facing the wrath of the law.

Critics and local environmentalists have castigated both the central government and the local authority for being reluctant to stop the deplorable land degradation at Warren Park.

Environmental Management Agency (EMA), spokesperson Amkela Sidange said the agency’s investigations implicated Harare City Council as one of the perpetrators committing unregulated gravel and sand extraction.

Sidange went on to say that the current legal framework did not give the agency authority to regulate gravel extraction but was only mandated by its environmental obligation to monitor the environmental impact.

“The extraction of gravel by council is not sanctioned by EMA.

“EMA currently does not have any regulations that regulate against gravel extraction, but by virtue of the activity being impactful on the environment, the agency monitors the activity.

“The gravel demarcation was done by the city of harare for the extraction of gravel for road maintenance,” noted Sidange.

Sidange further noted that local authorities as planning authorities are mandated to extract gravel in a responsible manner as per their by-laws.

Warren Park 1 councillor Tichavaona Mhetu noted that the local authority was currently engaging EMA to come up with a framework that would realize gravel extraction without negatively impacting the suburb.

“The current gravel extraction at Warren Park 1 is a result of an old contractual agreement as purported by the director of works.

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“Council is currently engaging with EMA in consultative meetings that will ensure it will come up with a new framework that will regulate gravel extraction to minimum levels that do not negatively impact Warren Park 1’s environmental integrity,” noted Mhetu.

Residents have however, raised concerns over the suburbs environs that have been reduced to gullies that could put adults and children alike at mortal risk.

Faith Dhliwayo, a resident at Warren Park noted that she was living in abject fear for the consequences gravel and extraction will have on the residents.

“Council never informed us residents that it had sanctioned the gravel and sand extraction in Warren Park. We are the immediate stakeholders negatively affected by the environmental and land degradation being induced.

“The scenery at Warren Hills is now hideous, being characterized by loose rocks and mud and residents fear that in the near future we may experience man-made fatal mudslides in this rainy season that could claim dear life.

“Gullies that have been dug pose a great threat to residents and religious apostolic sects that frequent the place during this raining season,” noted Dhliwayo.

The sanctioned and unregulated land degradation also has negative environmental implications on the movement of surface water and groundwater recharge.

Illegal urban farming has also added more environmental woes to Warren Park.

Urban planning and environmental scholar Percy Toriro, emphasized there was a need to manage illegal cultivation and gravel extraction in Warren Park to ensure that its environmental integrity was preserved.

“The Warren Hills are an important landmark in Harare. They have over the years been affected by two activities; the uncontrolled cultivation on the slopes as well as gravel extraction.

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“Both activities must be carefully managed to maintain the aesthetics of the hills as well as avoid environmental degradation such as erosion,  gully formation and siltation into Lake Chivero.

“Any development along the area must fully comply with planning requirements as well as the country’s environmental laws, particularly EIA compliance,” noted Toriro.

Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), programmes manager Rueben Akili bemoaned that the environmental destruction caused by the gravel and social extraction has cascading effects that will negatively impact the local species that inhabit the mountains.

“Warren Park is a Hilly area and these hills have been a habitat for monkeys and other birds. This will see these species disappearing but they have much value for local tourism.

“The destruction of the natural woodland is a cause for concern as this will impact on natural temperature regulation services which were being provided by the trees and natural vegetation especially in this time of heat waves caused by global warming.

“The level of quarrying in Warren Park needs urgent attention. We demand rehabilitation plans on the current land degradation caused by gravel extraction and we call HCC to consult residents on any activity in the hills as this has serious health implications on residents,” noted Akili.

Akili added that CHRA was also concerned about reports that HCC approved a brick moulding project to be located in a Warren Park D Hill opposite Kambuzuma in Warren Park.

“The dust, noise and water pollution caused by activities of this brick moulding project will have a negative bearing on human health,” concluded Akili.

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