SOME residents through the Harare Wetlands Trust have petitioned the City of Harare to stop the planned housing and commercial developments on Warren Hills Golf Course arguing the area is a wetland.
Diana Nherera Suburban Reporter
In a petition dated May 26 2022, residents urged council and its Environmental Management Committee to reinforce this through passing a resolution preventing any further development on headwater wetland areas.
“The petitioners beseech the City of Harare and the Environmental Management Committee Council to not approve any development permits for the development of Warren Hills Golf Course wetland within the Monavale vlei Ramsar site.
“Warren Hills Golf Course comprises part of the headwater wetland ecosystem of the Marimba River.
“Warren Hills Golf Course comprises an integral part of the Monavale vlei Ramsar Site,” reads the petition.
However, Augur Investments executive Ken Mr Sharpe, has dispelled fears that his company wants to destroy the golf course and the wetland.
“There have been some rumours that we were removing the golf course. It’s not true,” he said.
“We are spending millions of dollars. Our budget is between US$4 million and US$5 million, just to upgrade the golf course to bring it to international championship status.
“We are including things that are not on the golf course like driving range, a huge sport facility house, recreational areas,” he said recently at the official launch of the project.
Mr Sharpe said they want the golf course to rank high among the foremost championship golf courses in Africa, with prestigious apartments and free-standing houses and a retirement village.
“The facelift will transform Warren Hills Golf Course into a world class facility,” he said.
“We are facing challenges of the economy in the country that has limited our chance to have real development and our plea is for everyone to allow us to develop this country so as to be a world class city,” he said.
The upgrading of the golf course to world class standard dovetails with the Second Republic’s Vision 2030 of attaining an upper middle income economy to promote both domestic and international tourism in the country.
Dubbed the Warren Hills Golf and Residential Estate, the resort will provide world class services that Zimbabwe has never experienced.
Perched on a hill, the resort will give a picturesque view, overlooking the jacaranda dotted Sherwood Drive and the vast expanse of Monavale Vlei and Milton Park.
The estate will have everything a person needs under tranquil, secure, vast and majestic settings. A five-star lavish hotel will offer spectacular vistas around the golf course and spectrum of spot and recreational activities.
The residents’ petition states that there have been three attempts to map Harare’s wetlands carried out by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Harare Wetlands Trust (HWT) and recently, the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA).
“EMA has produced multiple versions of wetland maps for Harare.
“The initial wetland map in 2012 clearly shows the full extent of the Warren Hills Golf Course as being situated within a wetland area.
“This is confirmed in more recent mapping (of February 2020) and in proposed mapping of Ecologically Sensitive Areas (August 2020),” reads the petition.
The residents said the mapping by HWT was done in 2020 and was based on visual interpretation of historical and current Google Earth satellite imagery.
“According to this map, the whole of Warren Hills Golf Course falls within a wetland area.
“This is in accordance with the above wetland mapping carried out by EMA,” reads the petition.
The petition further states that the mapping by ZINGSA last year shows that part of the golf course falls within a wetland.
Residents argued that the unavailability of tap water in Harare has forced many dwellers to use groundwater leading to declining groundwater levels across the city.
“The widespread destruction of headwater wetlands is one of the primary causes of this disaster with an estimated 50 percent reduction in remaining wetland extent over the period 2008 to 2019.
“In addition, most of the remaining wetland areas are now heavily degraded,” residents said in the petition.
Headwater wetlands serve as essential natural infrastructure and play a key role in the delivery of clean water to the downstream water supply dams, the residents submitted.
“In recent decades, development has been allowed to encroach even deeper into these headwater wetland areas to disastrous effects.
“This has led to increased runoff, increased incidences of flooding, increased siltation of Lake Chivero and Lake Manyame, reduced recharge of groundwater, reduced period of inflow to the supply dams and reduced quality of water arriving in the supply dams.
“In addition, there has been a loss of biodiversity and reduction in open and recreational spaces across the city.
“The net effect is increased vulnerability to climate change to the direct detriment of current and future generations.
“For these reasons, the ongoing conversion of headwater wetlands to infrastructure cannot be considered compatible with ‘wise use’ of wetlands nor with sustainable development of the city.”
Recently, a stakeholders’ meeting was held to discuss the proposed housing and commercial developments on Warren Hills Golf Course where a representative for the developers Mr Mandla Ndebele reiterated Mr Sharpe’s explanations that the project would not disturb the golf course or the wetland.