Opposition legislator fumes over proposed Vic Falls stadium

Harare West legislator Joana Mamombe

AN opposition lawmaker has put Tourism minister Barbra Rwodzi and her Sports and Recreation ministry counterpart Kirsty Coventry on the spot for approving a proposal to construct a cricket stadium in Victoria  Falls.


She said the proposed project had the potential to harm the area's natural resources, thereby compromising its UNESCO World Heritage site status.


Last week, Information minister Jenfan Muswere announced that Cabinet had approved the proposed plan.


Harare West legislator Joana Mamombe raised concern over the project in Parliament this week saying the proposed stadium could negatively affect the resort town's biodiversity and environmental integrity.


Mamombe demanded that the two ministers submit a joint ministerial statement to justify their decision.


She suggested that the government could explore alternative locations for the stadium to avoid compromising Victoria Falls' natural resources and conservation efforts.


“Our tourism industry is heavily reliant on nature-based attractions. Zimbabwe is the third largest country in terms of wildlife resources, that is, rhinos, elephants, and so forth. Why do we recognise the importance of infrastructure development?  It is its potential to attract more tourists."


She added: “There are many other cities in Zimbabwe that could host the stadium that has been proposed, thereby distributing the economic benefits without sacrificing the environmental integrity


She added : "If tourists can travel from South Africa to come and visit Victoria Falls, I am sure they can do the same to travel from other cities to go and visit Victoria Falls.


“UNESCO World Heritage status is also at risk as we note that Victoria Falls was previously facing serious risks of losing the UNESCO World Heritage status due to the developments that threaten its natural state.”


“Instead, we should explore alternative locations that do not compromise our valuable natural resources and conservation efforts.”


“I, therefore, pray that the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality together with the Minister of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture bring a ministerial statement to elaborate on this plan to this august House,” Mamombe said.


Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda acknowledged Mamombe’s concerns and assured her that the master plan and an environmental impact assessment would address these issues.


“Your concern, in terms of protection of the environment, is noted.  However, there is a master plan that is going to take care of that eventuality and also, if you may recall, the Environmental Impact Assessment will be made before any such infrastructural development takes place,”


“It is my hope that the concern you are raising will indeed be given due respect.”


“Do not forget that Victoria Falls, in terms of its master plan, has accommodated the flora and fauna of Hwange National Park which is adjacent to the boundary of the city.  So, I think your concerns will be taken care of and it may not be necessary to ask for a Ministerial Statement,” Mudenda said.

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