Borrowdale wetlands crisis nears end as Harare residents – West Properties find common ground in newly planned 50 hectare park 

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By Leopold Munhende I Chief Correspondent

FOLLOWING lengthy, public spats over construction on a wetland in Borrowdale, the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) and businessman Ken Sharpe’s West Property have reached an understanding after the latter shared details of how he intends to rehabilitate and preserve the endangered environment.

West Property, which is in the process of constructing 1 000 upmarket apartments in the ‘contested’ Borrowdale area, had been heavily criticised by environmentalists and residents for the developments.

However, a detailed presentation by Sharpe on his Millennium Heights project, that will see a nature park being constructed at the site of their conflict, has received buy-in from some of his heaviest critics.

“We need to step up to the plate and enhance our wetland, developers have to know and they can partner with communities and make it better,” said Sharpe.

“We have planned a wetland core and in terms of our our agreement with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as well as our corporate social responsibility we have agreed to develop a 50 hectare park which, at the moment ,does not exist, where there was a wetland.

“There is no water, the water table has shrunk so we now have to rehabilitate the wetland, create flora and fauna, the natural environment for the residents.”

Speaking to at the opening of Millennium Heights second block of 60 flats, HRT Director Precious Shumba said West Property’s proposal, if followed to the dot, was welcome.

“The vision that was outlined is exciting in that he is talking about the greening approach, where they are trying to utilise wetlands in the most useful and beneficial manner without disrupting sponging of our water.

“This is not very different from what was done during construction of Dandaro Village which is on the same land. We believe that once this kind of project is spread to our high density areas we can still renew our settlements and wetlands,” said Shumba.

Shumba’s HRT and Harare Wetlands Trust (HWT) have been at the forefront of advocating for protection of the swampy or marshy land, usually saturated by water.

With Harare having been categorised a wetland city, HWT and HRT have in the past written to parliament seeking an end to construction by various organisations on a number of areas in the capital.

The US$400 million project that will see construction of Zimbabwe’s largest mall, offices and residential flats in a gated environment had been facing resistance from residents within its vicinity.