The construction of a hotel on a wetland in the capital has exposed ignorance on the part of the planning authorities on the laws that protect the environment.While the Environmental Management Act chapter 20.27 is very clear that anyone who wants to embark on any construction on ecologically sensitive areas has to get authority from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management, in Zimbabwe there is complete disregard of the laws resulting in the total abuse of wetlands in the country.
The latest has been the construction of a hotel on a wetland in Harare with the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management, Cde Francis Nhema saying his Ministry only ordered the contractors to comply with the provisions of the law which says an environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before any major project is undertaken.
Cde Nhema said it is not his Ministry alone as the local authority which is the planning arm is also responsible as it demonstrates lack of understanding of the importance of the wetlands.
Analysts believe that asking the contractors to regularise after breaking the law is setting a wrong precedence as many others will do the same expecting government to be lenient.
Environmentalists have called on the government to be tough on perpetrators of environmental crimes as some of the challenges facing the country are a result of failure to protect the environment.
The wetland was set aside by government and head of states who attended the commonwealth summit in Harare in 1991 planted trees at the site symbolising the importance of ecologically sensitive areas.