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8 July 2012
By : Jill Staden
During the week the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Given Lubinda, announced that seven sites within the Mosi-oa-Tunya Park were up for grabs by investors to construct new hotels and conference facilities.
Mr Lubinda: I recently authorised the Zambia Wildlife Authority to advertise available sites in the Mosi-o- Tunya National Park and they have so far advertised seven. Towards the end of this week, we will award the bids so that construction of the infrastructure can start.
I think we have been here before. These sites were advertised many years ago and it was the start of the conservation fight against Legacy Hotel Group which wanted to construct two hotels and a golf course either side of the Maramba River within the National Park. The conservationists won that round. Now it looks like we are up for round two.
The Mosi-oa-Tunya Park is within the World Heritage Site. According to the rules governing the World Heritage Site no building can go ahead without their approval. The Heritage Site has as one of its major cornerstones that the area should retain its wilderness feel. The construction of seven hotels within the site is hardly going to do much for that …
Unfortunately Zambia Wildlife Authority, I feel, often considers income over the welfare of the wildlife of the M osi-oa-Tunya Park. If these hotels do go ahead there will be standing room only for our animals.
According to Mr Lubinda these hotels and facilities will be ready for the UNW TO. Assuming that investors can be persuaded to acquire the plots; find an architect to design the facility; undergo an environmental impact assessment; gain UNESCO approval, and all the other legalities, it is likely to be far too late for UNWTO. And, as a matter of interest here is part of a UNESCO report:
Decision – 31COM 7B.4 – State of conservation of World Heritage Properties – Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
From UNESCO in 2002
3.Expresses itsconcern about uncontrolled urban development, unplanned tourism development, noise and water pollution, and invasive species, which continue to threaten the integrity of the property;
6.Also notes the State Party of Zambia’s moratorium on some construction and tourism infrastructure projects;
It seems that we are going tit for tat with Zimbabwe and its claim that it will build new hotels and convention centre. Livingstone already has more than enough accommodation facilities in town. Suffering as the lodge/hotel owners are with the global recession which is set to continue for many years to come, it is doubtful that any serious investor would consider building a hotel in Livingstone at the present time.
Add to that the new currency control which will require investors to work in kwacha and not dollars. Loans will have to be gained for any development – loans which will probably be overseas and given in a hard currency. What will happen to the kwacha in the following year? At the moment the kwacha is appreciating. According to economists this is due to the new currency controls, but the long-term prognosis is for devaluation of the kwacha. The problem is that no-one really knows what the kwacha will do in its new role. The risk for any company to borrow money in a foreign currency is high.
Livingstone has many guest houses throughout the town. Many Zambians on retirement invested their terminal benefits in a guest house as a way to earn an income. Some of these guest houses are excellent; some are really very grim indeed. Surely a better idea for government is to do a survey of the guest houses and give the owners some help to upgrade the facilities and services to provide the necessary accommodation … It would put money in the ordinary Zambian’s pocket and not into big business …