The Herald Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Michael Chideme Municipal Reporter

Developers of the US$100 million Mall of Zimbabwe, Augur Investments, are convinced the construction site is not a wetland as it does not have any such characteristics. Some sections of the community have tried to block the development arguing the site is a wetland despite recent evidence disputing the claims. According to the Government Gazette of July 27, this year, the mall site was declared a wetland. It is referred to as the Borrowdale West Wetland. “An area of land located to the West of Borrowdale Road and to the East of Groombridge, Teviotdale Road borders the wetland to the West while Whitwell Road demarcates the wetland to the northern side,” reads part of the gazette. However, developments have occurred on some of the gazetted wetlands such as the National Sports Stadium Wetland. A new hotel is under construction on the site that lies north of Bulawayo Road and south of Princess Road. It is bordered by the National Sports Stadium to the west and Mutley Bend Road to the east. Government recently issued a planning permit following delays by Harare City Council in approving the project. The permit approves the conversion of the open space known as the Millennium Park for the development of a commercial office park, residential and institutional facilities. Augur Investments argues that building the mall would guarantee the security of the neighbourhood in addition to adding value of the properties within the vicinity. The open space between Dandaro Village and Borrowdale West is a haven for criminals who target households and motorists at the intersection of Borrowdale and Whitwell Roads. Augur Investments chief executive Mr Mike Van Blerk said an extract from environmental assessment by Plan Afric has shown that the area is not a wetland. “The characteristics of a wetland at Millennium Park which include vegetation, soils and animal life are not evident on this site,” reads an extract from the assessment. The report notes that a river or a river source is not a wetland implying that calling the construction site a wetland “is a misuse of the word wetland”. “We therefore vehemently refute, based on the opinion of our leading regional authority on environmental matters Plan Afric, that Millennium Park is a wetland. “It is a vlei area that has suffered significant environmental degradation and wish to set the record straight,” he said. Mr Van Blerk said the construction would help uplift the outlook of the area and discourage the dumping of garbage, which is fast becoming an environmental hazard. He said the development would result in the treeing of the area and development of artificial water ways. “We highlight that part of our development objectives is to incorporate in the landscape a park land incorporating water features and weirs. Our heartfelt and vested interest is to sustain and improve our environment,” he said. The development will create up to 4 000 jobs when complete and thousands more during construction. It is hoped the mall will improve the quality of life of people living in the Borrowdale area by not only meeting local demand but minimising distances people travel to access services. Augur Investments chairman Mr Ken Sharpe said there was a shortage of shopping space in Harare to the tune of 210 000 square metres. He said existing shopping malls provide 110 000 square metres. The Mall of Zimbabwe provides 68 000 square metres, implying that there would still be a need for another shopping mall of equal or bigger size. “The Mall of Zimbabwe will help meet current demand in the next 10 years,” he said. He said the mall would attract shoppers from outside Harare and even from the region as happens with Sandton in South Africa. Mr Sharpe said the concepts were drawn from the development of a similar mall in South Africa, the Edendale Mall in Pietermaritzburg.