Water hyacinth overwhelms Mucheke river

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Zimbabwe–Masvingo–Rivers are fast becoming one of the most endangered precious natural resources on earth.

The sustainable existence of these freshwater ecosystems continues to be threatened by different anthropogenic activities like agriculture; industrialization and urban development and all these have the potential in the deterioration of river water quality. 

As stated in the Journal of Geosciences and Environment Protection by David Chikodzi, Munanamato Mabhegedhe and Tatenda K Tunha. 

The aqua life has been hugely affected and this also can be attributed to the climate change as the river which flows into Mushagashe which then flows into Mutirikwi no longer fills to its capacity and the water hyacinth is now blocking the water from flowing. It is evident that water hyacinth in Mushagashe has disturbed and clogged the irrigation pipes and this has led to a decline in the agricultural production, and decline in agricultural production is leading a decrease in food security and productivity in the surrounding communities. Lakes, dams and rivers in Zimbabwe are now heavily characterized by water hyacinth and in Zimbabwe, water hyacinth has been attributed to the failure by City Councils to control water pollution as raw sewage is flowing into the rivers and lakes. 

In an interview with the Public Relations Officer of Masvingo City Council, Ashleigh Jinjika said water pollution has created a breeding space for water hyacinth. 

“The water in the river is dirty mainly due to disposal of raw sewage, runoff of fertilizers and untreated industrial waste into the river. As the City Council, we admit that the environment has been damaged. Pollution on its own has negative effects on the community and we are struggling on our side and for now, we do not have any budget for us to remove the water hyacinth from the river. We are working on making sure that water pollution becomes a thing of the past and conserve the natural resource so that there is no breeding space for water hyacinth,” she said.

The continued water pollution into the river has seen the council fined by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) for failing to take action against the water pollution which is resulting in the production of water hyacinth. 

“Our failure to take action against water pollution resulted in us being fined by EMA and we paid US$10 000 and we have since submitted our work plan.  That is sewer blockages which are not human-induced. The council has since increased surveillance, monitoring industries which are disposing untreated industrial waste into the river, encouraging the community to stop vandalism which is causing sewer blockages as well as discouraging the community from practising stream bank cultivation,” Said Jinjika.  

In the previous years, the council used to have water hyacinth removal programs but due to shortage of the required equipment, the council has since been struggling and it is their mandate to clean up the river. But in the previous years, they used to wait for the water hyacinth to reach Lake Mutirikwi which made it easy for them to remove it.

EMA Regional Manager Milton Muusha said it is the responsibility of the Council to deal with the water hyacinth and are not mandated to deal with issues to do with water pollution as their role is to monitor and prevent pollution and even water pollution and nothing beyond that.

Godfrey Mtimba the Spokesperson for Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance MURRA a civic organisation which represents the residents called for action to those who are responsible.

“As MURRA, we urge the Masvingo City Council and other responsible stakeholders to find a lasting solution to destroy the parasitic weed that has for long disturbed flow of water to Lake Mutirikwi. Action must be taken before its beauty is destroyed and this will have a huge impact on the surrounding communities,” said Mtimba.

One resident, Almerlisa Bauti said, “Water hyacinth is slowly destroying the river which is a tributary to Mushagashe and Lake Mutirikwi where water for use in the City comes from. The City Council is not taking any action in preventing the belt from spreading further. The weed is fast becoming a threat to the surrounding communities as it possesses as a public health problem as it will, in the end, bred many human diseases and also snakes.  The aqua life is slowly being destroyed and this is also a threat the council has to take action and make sure the water is left clear,” said Bauti. 

In the years between 2014 and 2015, there was an organisation, Family and Friends of Rivers and Lakes in Zimbabwe,
(FAFORALIZ) which helped in the removal of the water hyacinth with a hyacinth pulling tool called the Pigato
 but the equipment was seized by EMA and they could not continue with their work. 

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said water hyacinth has a negative impact on the ecosystem as it increases the evapotranspiration of water; it creates a favourable environment for the production of snails and mosquitoes that cause diseases like Bilharzia and malaria. The mat of water hyacinth affects recreation and tourism facilities, impacts fishing and transportation, irrigation and hydropower infrastructures in water bodies infested by the nuisance weed, water hyacinth. Water quality can be affected by the invasion of water hyacinth. 

Lake Tana has been invaded by water hyacinth since 2011 and currently, the expansion rate of water hyacinth is too severe which requires coordination of all stakeholders to control it. Other infested water bodies in Africa include Lake Malawi, the Zambezi River, Tano Lagoon, River Niger in West Africa, Incomati River in Mozambique, Kafue River in Zambia, Pangani River in Tanzania and Lake Naivasha in Kenya.

Water hyacinth is slowly depleting aqua fauna and flora that depends on water.  

CALL TO ACTION 
For any queries, complaints or suggestion; people can contact the Masvingo City Councilís Public Relations Officer Ashleigh Jinjika on 263 716 090 178 or 263 773 651 079 / jinjikaashleigh@gmail.com 

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