RESIDENTS of Sentosa are objecting to the proposed construction of 96 flats on a wetland along Westminster Road in the suburb.
Ivan Zhakata Suburban Reporter
The proposed development is set to take place on the remainder of Number 32 Westminster Road, which the residents say is a wetland and are now entangled in a dispute with the developers.
The residents said they were shocked to see an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) letter circulating in the neighborhood notifying the residents about the impending development.
In the letter, A-Z Environmental Consultancy’s Mr Mike Muswizu said they had been engaged by Sentosa Gardens (Pvt) Ltd to carry out an Environmental Management Plan on the land in question.
“In terms of the Environmental Management Act (cap 20:27), schedule 1, housing development as a prescribed activity should undergo an environmental impact assessment,” he said.
“The project has been granted an environmental management plan status by EMA since it’s a continuation of the previously approved plans. It is a key requirement that key stakeholders, interested and affected parties are consulted and their concerns taken into consideration during the environmental impact assessment study in accordance with Section 10, subsection 4 of Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007.
“Sentosa Gardens intends to finish their flats construction on the remainder of Number 32 Westminster Road. The area covers a total of 1.6 hectares but the building will be done on 1.5 ha since about 0.2 is a wetland.”
Mr Muswizu said the project and its alternatives will impact the biological, physical and social environment at a small scale.
He said physical and biological impacts included contamination of ground and surface water, dust generation, noise pollution, loss of natural vegetative cover, loss of aesthetic value, human wildlife conflict and loss of habitat.
Mr Muswizu said there were also socio-economic impacts which included employment creation and revenue generation and negative impacts which will related to prostitution, alcoholism and spread of communicable diseases.
He said most of the impacts occur on a localised scale and mitigation measures were available for most of them.
“Reclamation activities during operation and on decommissioning of the project will aim at remediation and improvement of the state of the environment in order to leave a landscape which does not endanger public safety whilst at the same time ensuring that no long term pollution problems remain.
“The impact mitigation measures will include protection of workings by fencing, selective clearance of vegetation only where it inhibits project activities, re-vegetation and irrigation of working areas during the dry season in order to minimise dust, provision of relevant protective clothing and equipment to workers, comprehensive land rehabilitation before and on project decommissioning, and revegetation of disturbed areas using indigenous tree species,” Mr Muswizu said.
He said the residents’ contributions as key stakeholders’ were important in ensuring an objective assessment of the project.
“You are a key stakeholder in this project and we would like to hear your concerns and suggestions so that they can be incorporated in project planning and implementation. We also need to verify whether you do not have any objections or reservations to the implementation of this project.”
A resident Ms Lynley Cahill expressed concern over the development saying it will add service delivery problems to the already existing ones.
“This open space of land has been vacant for over 50 years and is a wetland and all of a sudden it has title deeds issued in 2021 and there seems to be two owners who have come forward purporting to own the property and they now want to build 96 flats. Sentosa has no council water for 19 years now and people fetch water from the borehole at the illegal church development.
“Now 96 flats on an area that has scarce water already is a catastrophe waiting to happen, this area is already overburdened. There seems to be a lot of skullduggery that had gone on with council with the illegal sale of this land. There has been no official change of use of land and neither has the development been advertised in newspapers,” she said.
Zimbabwe Combined Residents and Ratepayers Association (ZICORRA) Harare provincial chairperson Mr Lawrence Kuleya said his body condemns the building of flats in Sentosa given the suburb’s long history of water challenges.
“There are some areas that have gone for 19 years without any council water and putting up more flats or houses would further worsen the already existing bad water situation in Sentosa. The water table is very low and therefore boreholes are not an option.
“Sentosa has enough flats which are also experiencing water and refuse collection challenges. The Zambezi and Tokwe flats which all fall under Sentosa are a perfect example. We have more than 19 blocks of three storey flats which are experiencing challenges related to water and service delivery and this excludes houses that have these same problems,” he said.
Mr Kuleya said the proposed flats were unjustified in an area like Sentosa or in Ward 16 as a whole where the infrastructure is already overburdened by the number of households it is being forced to accommodate.