Home » General » Let’s Make the Sun Shine On Harare [column]

SMART city. Harare is not one of those, not least in the literal sense, nay, not climate-wise either. Many years ago the sun stopped shining on this historic city, ironically referred to by its managers, the Harare Council, as the “Sunshine City”.

Harare’s central business district has in recent years speedily deteriorated into a lawless vending hub, viewed by many as reflective proof of tough economic times.

In stubborn defiance of city by-laws, hard-pressed individuals have turned every street corner or pavement into mini-supermarkets, selling a paraphernalia of items, from vegetables to underwear to rat poison. We have even heard of “thigh vending!”

Now, Government wants to rid the city of this “environmental menace” according to recent warnings by Environment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo.

The plan is to round the 14 000 surplus vendors up, and send them far away from the CBD, anywhere. The National Association of Vendors says Harare’s CBD is home to 20 000 registered vendors, three times as much the city’s designated vending points can accommodate.

For obvious economic reasons, this is a war Government will not win. However, the free-for-all vendor situation is certainly sore to the eye, to the city and to the environment.

I greatly empathise with those among us trying to earn an honest living, like the vegetable vendors, but their operations are deemed by the city authorities illegal, of which they are.

Illegal vending has spawned littering at a massive scale, the kind of scale the Harare City Council, proven environmental-laggards in their own right, will never be able to manage, not without the willing or forced co-operation from the vendors.

Notwithstanding the real threat to a clean, safe and healthy environment, one has to acknowledge the humble brilliance of the informal traders’ innovative and effective marketing techniques.

Pre-recorded promotionals yelling non-stop from loud speakers, and of course, the unmistakable live aertising, shouting really, “washungurudzwa nemapete, masvosve, nhunzi kana makonzo. Mushonga wenyu uripo unopedza,” for instance.

That much noise, once again, pollutes the environment and Hararians hate pollution, though most have painfully learnt to live with it everyday.

The vendors’ charge sheet is thus fairly easy to prepare – failure to make the sun shine on Harare’s CBD or its angry residents, socially and environmentally.

But as already noted, the sun set on the capital city many years ago, and this had nothing to do with the swelling numbers of desperate informal traders.

The Harare City Council has faltered in its strategic planning. Statistics have shown the country’s rural to urban migration rising fast, from 10,6 percent in 1950 to 38,1 percent in 2010, says the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.

However, the municipality has done little in preparing the capital to absorb the growing urban population, which has doubled to 2,1 million in the past 25 years.

This doubling means everything else should also double, from food to transport, to housing, water delivery and sewer systems among others.

It is possible Harare may have anticipated these changes in some of its planning, but failures at implementing corresponding corrective action is what has given rise to some of the worst institutionalised environmental crimes in Zimbabwe.

A multi-ministerial Cabinet Committee on water pollution last year found the Harare City Council guilty of discharging 3 885 mega litres or 19,43 million drums of raw sewage daily into water systems around the capital city.

Several millions of dollars are now needed to treat the council’s recklessness, which has seriously compromised the provision of clean drinking water. Water-borne diseases like typhoid have become an everyday thing.

This is also the same council that has allowed property development to take place on wetlands, forcing the water table to drop to as deep as 30 metres from 18 metres.

Under its pliant watch, many people have gone on to build and live in makeshift houses in unplanned areas that often lack adequate water, sanitation and waste collection.

Such areas face hazards – such as flash flooding – that may become more frequent or intense as a result of climate change. At least 10 people were believed to have died at Hopley last year following torrential rains that destroyed houses.

Mountains of garbage remain uncollected in several townships, where the poor live. It’s a real waste management nightmare.

Earlier plans by Harare to establish a $100 million biogas plant, as an effective waste management measure have suffered a still birth.

Put differently, and acknowledging the prompt need to regularising the vending outbreak, the Harare Council must first clean up the mess in its own house, which allows it to make questionable decisions that are damaging to the environmental.

The municipality wastes money hosting events such as launching a clean-up campaign. Who doesn’t know all of Harare needs cleaning up?

The correct thing for the council to do is to shut up, and clean up quietly. The evidence of a city cleaned up speaks for itself. Attitudes must change, starting with the local authority.

The fast growing cities of sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly becoming vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and variability.

In Zimbabwe, the risk is still low but the threat of economic and social disruptions arising from climate disasters remains real and is being felt.

In the context of climate change impacts, it is important for Zimbabwean cities to increase resilience by facilitating and mainstreaming adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures in planning and development.

The concept of building clean, climate smart and resilient cities is a new approach to sustainable development. Cities contribute significantly to the production of greenhouse gases, the biggest cause of climate change.

Conversely, they have now started to feel the dangerous impacts of their own actions, which are premised on explosive manufacturing, transport, consumption and construction activities, big sources of carbon.

God is faithful.

jeffgogo@gmail.com

Source : The Herald

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