'Harare turning into desert'

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party has warned of desertification of the capital Harare which is being triggered by haphazard parcelling of wetlands.

Obert Gutu, spokesperson for MDC Harare province, spoke as Cabinet trashes residents’ objections to the construction of a $100 million shopping mall in the leafy Borrowdale suburb.

Another 300-room five-star hotel is being built by a Chinese investor on a wetland between Belvedere suburb and the National Sports Stadium.

“MDC Harare province would like to express its utmost disappointment at the continued parcelling out of wetlands to certain people and organisations for the purpose of constructing hotels, shopping malls,” Gutu told the Daily News.

“It is a well-established environmental concept that wetlands should be left as open spaces for recreation purposes in order to protect such fragile pieces of land from degradation.

This is a global practice meant to ensure the environment is protected and preserved,” said Gutu.

Gutu, who is also deputy Justice minister in the fragile coalition government, said scientific studies had proven that the preservation of wetlands was important to ensure the water table remained high in the long run.

He said this was an effective remedy against the negative effects of climate change.

Gutu said the proposed mega-mall dubbed the Millennium Park was unnecessary given that there were shopping centres such as Sam Levy, Bond Street, Mt Pleasant, Chisipite and Kamfinsa nearby.

Ken Sharpe, the controversial tycoon building the mall in partnership with Johannesburg-listed international property group and developer McCormick Property Development, insists his luxury outlet will be a draw card for tourists and locals, and could help stop cross-border shopping.

Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda claims existing shopping malls in the Borrowdale area were failing to meet the expectations of “fairly affluent residents”.

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