George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
Government is set to evict over 300 families illegally settled on the shores of Lake Mutirikwi to restore a buffer zone around Masvingo City’s sole water supply that is threatened with siltation. The illegal settlers have been pouring onto the shores of Lake Mutirikwi, south of the Great Zimbabwe World Heritage Site, exacerbating the siltation of the lake.
The lake is less than 30 percent full, with experts blaming the siltation on the proliferation of illegal settlements in the catchment area.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister (Cropping) Davis Marapira said there was urgent need to restore the buffer zone to protect the dam. He said Government would soon initiate moves to remove hundreds of illegal settlers occupying the shores of the dam stretching from areas close to the Great Zimbabwe Monuments into the nearby Boroma resettlement area in Murinye communal lands.
“Lake Mutirikwi is under serious threat from these illegal settlers, who allocated themselves plots on the shores of the dam The area currently occupied by the illegal settlers is supposed to be a buffer zone that is devoid of human settlements to avert the threat of siltation,” said Deputy Minister Marapira. Deputy Minister Marapira said Government would make sure that the illegal settlers were moved to save Lake Mutirikwi.
“We are going to move in and restore sanity for the sake of our dam, which is of great strategic economic importance to Masvingo city and the province at large,” he said. Deputy Minister Marapira expressed concern that the buffer zone that should be a wildlife sanctuary had been turned into a settlement area. Human activities such as agriculture are blamed for the massive soil erosion that causes siltation in the dam. Deputy Minister Marapira said Lake Mutirikwi was struggling to fill up despite above normal rains received in most parts of Masvingo and the country at large, due to siltation.
Apart from supplying Masvingo city, Lake Mutirikwi provides irrigation water to sugar cane plantations in the Lowveld. The dam is also a source of water for numerous irrigation schemes dotted along Mutirikwi River’s journey to the Lowveld and the growing threat of siltation would affect food security for downstream communities that rely on the irrigation projects. Lake Mutirikwi was once Zimbabwe’s biggest inland dam before the completion of Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in Chivi. Zinwa recently started water draw-downs from Tokwe-Mukosi to irrigate sugar cane plantations in the Lowveld as part of efforts to relieve pressure on Lake Mutirikwi.