An investigation into the contribution of housing developments to wetland degradation within the city of Harare, Zimbabwe

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master thesis
Title An investigation into the contribution of housing developments to wetland degradation within the city of Harare, Zimbabwe
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
Wetlands are fragile ecosystems that deliver a wide range of environmental and ecosystem
services that contribute to human well-being. This fragility has seen a number of wetlands
succumb to degradations and loss arising from different causes. The positive contribution of
wetlands to various ecosystems and the increasing rate of their degradation and loss has been a
cause for concern to different stakeholders for a long time. One of the landmark indications of
this concern is the constitution of the Ramsar Convention that was held in Iran in 1971 with the
objective of addressing concerns regarding to wetland degradation and loss. Among the
competing land uses resulting in wetlands loss and degradation could be listed urban
agriculture, industrial development and housing.
The research sought to assess the extent of wetland degradation with respect to housing
developments in Harare, Zimbabwe. The dilemma as to why and how wetlands were being
degraded was an issue of concern. The research sought to determine whether abatement or
mitigation measures were in place to address the challenges Associated with wetlands loss and
degradation. The subsequent growth of developments, their associated activities and possible
intervention measures had to be thoroughly assessed.
The administration of questionnaires and conducting of interviews was done to solicit data from
the respondents. Collected data was analyzed through the Statistical Package for Social
Scientists. Further to this, Google satellite imagery was used in the mapping of the Belvedere
North and Epworth suburbs. Disturbed and undisturbed portions of the wetlands were analyzed
by Geographical Information System software. Direct observation of the wetland area was used
to examine existing natural features. To determine extent of pollution, water samples were
collected in the wetlands and submitted to the laboratory for analysis. Analysis of selected
chemical and physical parameters was carried out in the laboratory using selected methods.
The research made two important and broad findings. First, both the Belvedere North and
Epworth wetlands have been severely degraded by anthropogenic activities with housing
developments and urban agriculture as the major contributors of this degradation. The
development of residential properties in the wetlands is a result of a high demand for residential
space in Harare. Whereas housing developments in Belvedere are formal and planned,
developments in Epworth were informal and haphazard. With no formal planning, the Epworth
wetlands have been severely impacted by water and sand extraction as well as contamination of
underground water by pit-latrines that are common in these informal settlements. Second, the
research also found that wetland degradation was closely associated with the lack of clear
wetland policies both at national and local levels. The laboratory results showed that the water
in Epworth was more polluted than the water in Belvedere. The measure of pollutants in
Epworth was higher due to the activities being carried out as compared to Belvedere.

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