Advocates4Earth, a non-profit environmental law , climate and wildlife justice organisation and Haka Camp Private Limited, a conservation-oriented company that runs Haka Game Park have approached the High Court with an urgent chamber application seeking to stop the Zimbabwe Phosphate Industries (ZIMPHOS) from the excessive abstraction of water from the Cleveland Dam Wetland in Masasa, Harare. Cleveland Dam is one of Zimbabwe’s seven designated wetland sites under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. The wetland is also a stopover site for migratory birds such as Abdim’s stork, African spoonbill, Barn swallow, European bee-eater, Grey rumped swallow, Little bee-eater, white stork and Wire-tailed swallow.
In late September, information reached Advocates4Earth that Zimphos, a phosphate production company was abstracting excessive and unsustainable amounts of water from Cleveland Dam and hence threatening the continued survival of the wetland as well as of marine, avian and other wildlife that depend on the water.
In the terms of the laws of Zimbabwe, water withdrawals or abstraction from rivers and reservoirs is a listed project in the First Schedule of the Environmental Management Act [Chapter 20:27] which requires Environmental Impact Assessment approval in terms of Section 97 of the Environmental Management Act before project commencement. Zimphos has not submitted any Environmental Impact Assessment with regards to water abstraction from Cleveland Dam.
Zimphos’ s actions pose irreversible harm to the area around Cleveland Dam Wetlands which is an internationally recognized wetland under the Ramsar Convention which Zimbabwe signed up to in 2013.
The court application also cites the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Upper Manyame Catchment Council, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) and the City of Harare. These public bodies are statutorily obliged to monitor, receive reports and make sustainable decisions over water abstraction from Cleveland Dam.
From a site visit done but the Advocates4Earth team, it was apparent that the excessive water abstraction had caused the dam to reach dead storage which means the dangerously little water left is now stagnant, can no longer adequately sustain aquatic, avian and animal life.
In the court papers, Advocates4Earth and Haka Game Park indicated that the continued excessive abstraction of water for commercial purposes by Zimphos if not stopped, poses a risk of massive ecological damage on the internationally recognised wetland site around Cleveland dam, loss of marine species, aviary species, animals and rivers surrounding the area. The eco-tourism activities such as canoeing and game viewing at Haka Game Park and on Cleveland Dam are also at serious risk of being destroyed by the water abstraction.
Advocates4Earth and Haka are awaiting the notification of the court date from the High Court of Zimbabwe. More details to follow.