An estimated one million hectares of land is under severe degradation in Zimbabwe, with illegal sand abstraction as the major driver.
This is according to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA). In Harare alone, sand poachers have damaged over 400 hectares of land. Other cities and towns around the country are also affected as demand for pit and river sand is high due to increased construction activity.
EMA Environmental Education and Publicity Manager, Amkela Sidange told ZTN News that land degradation remains a major environmental challenge in the country.
“About a million hectares is under severe form of erosion. Looking at some of the drivers of land degradation, sand poaching comes out as one key driver especially around major urban set-ups as a result of probably the expansion of these settlements.
“If we take for example Harare, we have an estimated 400 hectares of land that has actually been degraded through sand poaching,” she said.
Harare City Council, is currently carrying out an exercise to remove illegal sand vendors from across the city. The local authority says the illegal selling points encourage poachers to continue with their activities and as such, vendors should be removed from these points.
The vendors, however, claim that council officials who come to confiscate their goods accept bribes and as such they manage to continue operating at these points.
Harare City Council spokesperson, Michael Chideme, told ZTN that they are making progress in terms of removing illegal vendors and corruption allegations will be investigated.
“City employees who are demanding bribes should be reported to the police so that they can be arrested and the due course of the law takes its place. We are encouraging the sellers to desist from paying off these employees if that is happening.
“As council we are also going to investigate these allegations to find out if it is true because sometimes when these things happen, people like to point fingers,” he said.