Authorities thinking about Vic Falls theme park

2015-05-23 14:18

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Harare - Municipal authorities in Victoria Falls say they are still assessing the environmental impact of a proposed multimillion dollar theme park in Zimbabwe's top tourist resort and have not made a final decision as to whether the controversial development will be allowed to go ahead.

Victoria Falls Town Clerk Christopher Dube said in a statement this week: "New consultation processes are being conducted and recommendations made to the relevant authorities to aid decision-making."

The planned $18m Santonga Historical and Recreational Park has provoked mixed reactions. 

Opponents, including a prominent columnist in Zimbabwe's state-owned media, say the project appears to be a glorified zoo, and will stop the free movement of game that isn't caged.

Zimbabwe's tourism minister Walter Mzembi denies this. 

Victoria Falls, home of one of the seven wonders of the world, is situated inside a national park. Wild animals often venture into the town, including a herd of buffalo last December. The presence of game delights tourists but can prove a pain to locals, as when baboons caused a three-hour power cut last weekend.

The developers of the park, Africa Albida Tourism, say it will "bombard the senses" and will tell the story of Victoria Falls "from the very beginning, four billion years ago, through its history, people, plants and wildlife”, according to a recent statement from group chair Dave Glynn. 

Reports say the park could be completed by 2017.

But opposition continues. Popular Harare blogger @joeblackzw wrote on Tuesday: "A zoo. In Vic Falls. Which is a national park. So a zoo. Blocking free movement of wild animals in the park to the river. GENIUS."

Tourism executive Clement Mukwasi told a radio phone-in programme that the park, if it goes ahead, "will take the wilderness feel of the Victoria Falls and fuel human-animal conflict," state ZBC reported earlier this month.

Tourism used to be one of Zimbabwe's biggest earners in the 1990s but international arrivals dropped sharply after 2000, when visitors were scared off by reports of food, fuel and power shortages, farm invasions and alleged rights abuses.

Arrivals have been steadily picking up since the formation of a coalition government in 2009, though recently-released figures for last year show the number of South African tourists had dropped compared to the previous year. The power-sharing government lasted for four years.

A first Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the theme park, necessary for all projects of this type, appears to have been carried out around 2007. But the results of that are considered to be no longer valid and the assessment is being updated, town clerk Dube said.

He added: "We advise stakeholders to desist from speculative actions and debate that may jeopardise the internal processes of council by either seeking to pre-empt or influence in any way the decision in favour of or against the [Santonga] proposal."

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  environment  |  southern africa

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