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True cost of Zimbabwe’s rain

The drought in Zimbabwe appears to be well and truly over to much jubilation and calls for more rain becuase there have been too many years of unsustainable rainfall.

Droughts and seasons of abundant rainfall are natural cycles and should have little effect on natural environment, and for many millennia the environment was able to withstand anything that nature threw at it, and then came man.

But along with man came technology and a little common sense and any use of the land was regulated and practices were put in place that did not allow crops to be grown on an un-contoured slope or too near rivers, deforestation was controlled and so to was misuse of rivers by gold panners.

And then came along a different kind of man, a type of man who lived for the day and gave no thought to tomorrow.

Over the years this attitude coupled with a healthy dose of corruption and greed got rid of any form of conservation and any attempt to control the devastation of the environment was no longer on the agenda.

Deforestation came first  as it was a cheap readily available source of cooking and heating fuel.

The years of poor rainfall and no authoritative control saw people moving their lands next to sources of water, which firstly supplied an abundance of fuel in the form of wood and then allowed them to easily water their crops planted right on the banks where the trees and vegetation used to be, and all was gerosion 2ood.

And as the years of poor rainfall continued people began building houses on former wet land areas which they were never allowed to build on before, there was plenty of building material to use in the wetlands and water was abundant even in the drought and again all was good.

Rivers became a life line for many of the new age people who had no other source of income and many people begun illegal gold panning in this wonderfully deregulated society.

Now these people who were redefining the rivers needed to eat and keep warm and nature had provided plenty of material along side the rivers they were trying to make a living from, and best of all there was no-one trying to stop them doing what ever they
felt like as it was now their right. And of course all was still good.

And now the years of poor rainfall are being compensated for as nature always does.  And all is not so good anymore.

Wet lands are once again wet, and wet lands can not support buildings when wet.

Rivers are full, more than full, and torrents of water are flowing over once protected soil but now just bare earth.

The rain does not fall only on the rivers, where riverine cultivation has stripped all natural defenses, but in the mountains and hills and valleys where deforestation has again removed any protection the agriculturally sustainable soil might have had.

Who in this new, tomorrow never comes, World will count the cost?

And what is the cost? Soil erosion in heavy rains is inevitable but sustainable in a land that cares and has an active conservation policy.

Can soil erosion be quantified in a monetary value? It can to the detriment of an  uncaring people.

Non immediate costs are loss in crop production coupled with a loss of land value from long-term excessive erosion, but the collateral damage to property, roads, bridges and other infrastructure are more readily quantifiable, repairable and therefore a direct cost of mismanagement.

What ierosion 1s not repairable is the environmental damages to streams, rivers and lakes which includes water quality and the spin off ecological damage to wildlife and aquatic life.

And when the waters subside and the rivers are seen to be so much wider and so much shallower and the land that you once relied on for your very existence is now part of the new river beds and when the next normal rains cause disproportional damage becuase the rivers are no longer containable and the new gullies in the land let even the softest rains run off in to the rivers who will be blamed, man or rain?

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