Horrific Development Opposite Mana Pools
by MELANIE GOSLING
PROTEA Hotels plan to build a“ultra modern” 144-bedroom hotel on the banks of the Zambezi River in a wild area just upstream from the world-renowned Mana Pools National Park and World Heritage Site.
The proposal to build the hotel in the Chiawa Game Management Area on the Zambian side of the river, has shocked tour operators and conservationists in the region, and has been slammed as “totally inappropriate” for the area.
They say the proposed hotel,which will be by far the biggest in the area, is likely to scupper plans to have World Heritage Status extended to the Zambian side of the Zambezi.
Sources say that 12 of the 15 traditional leaders in the Chiawa region have signed a document opposing the buidling of the hotel, while three abstained.
The hotel will consist of a central lodge, conference centre and six double-storey blocks of rooms. There will be a moorings on the river for boats and a parking lot to take 40 vehicles.
It will be built in area which has already exceeded the government’s recommended number of hotel beds.
The hotel on the site of the former Donatini Camp, about 12 km from the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Grant Cumings of Zambia, vice chairman of Conservation Lower Zambezi, the size and nature of the development was inappropriate for the site.
“That model has proved successful for Protea Hotels in downtown Lusaka, but why put it in a wilderness? It will double overnight the number of hotel beds in the area, which are all operating at less than 50% occupancy, so it not like there’s a huge market waiting to go there. And they’re not coming in at a cheap price.
The hotel footprint is big, it will have a big visual impact, right opposite the World Heritage Site of Mana Pools,” Cumings said.
Derek Chittenden, a Zimbabwean living in South Africa and an environmental planner, said the hotel proposal, said the proposal “flies in the face of all sound planning principles".
“If this goes through, it’s the beginning of the end for that area. It will have a huge impact on the Zimbabwean side, yet neither the Zimbabwean national parks or the government - or even Unesco - knew about the proposal,” Chittenden said.
Protea Hotels Zambia is 97.5% owned by Union Gold and 2.5% by Mauro Guardigli, an Italian living in Zambia. The group operates under the Protea Inns and Hotels (Pty) Ltd franchise of South Africa.
Because the ecosystem is regarded as fragile, the company has had to conduct and environmental impact assessement (EIA) prior to approval.
Mark O’Donnell, a Briton living in Zambia and chairman of Union Gold, said yesterday he believed the hotel was appropriate for the area.
Anyone wishing to comment on the proposal should email: firstname.lastname@example.org