HARARE – Government has endorsed businessman Ken Sharpe’s Millennium Heights lifestyle estate, an upmarket housing project which has been flagged by environmentalists and residents groups as built on wetland in Harare’s Borrowdale suburb.
The property developer has come in for some sharp criticism for his determination to set up a housing project on a piece of wetland in violation of environmental laws.
But speaking Friday at the unveiling of the second block of 60 apartments of an exclusive 50 hectares upmarket housing venture, Sharpe defended the project, insisting it has instead brought life to a previously unused piece of Harare land.
It has emerged that following engagements with government and environmental authorities, the nature park has now been endorsed and is seen as a positive venture.
“We have planned a wetland core and in terms of our agreement with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as well as our corporate social responsibility, we have agreed to develop a 50 hectare park which at the current moment does not exist, where there was a wetland.
“We focus on delivering results. So it’s not like you can’t build on a wetland; you can. It’s technically very feasible. The question is how do you preserve and enhance the wetland or the functionality of a wetland,” he said.
“In terms of the future, we need to preserve our wetlands; we need to step up and enhance the environment of the wetland features that we have. There is a clear demarcation of wetlands in Harare.
“EMA has done it properly…so, we know where the wetlands are and we know when it is a wetland you can’t build on it but you can improve it. Partner with the community to make it better,” said Sharpe.
Housing minister, Daniel Garwe said what West Property projects Zimbabwe were very welcome.
“Our vision as government is to see structures which depict a growing and prosperous economy where our people are guaranteed settlements that allow them to thrive and conduct their day to day activities in a conducive environment.
“We are now saying let’s build better vertically and this is the beginning of that version, bringing Dubai to Zimbabwe.”
Garwe said government is aiming to deliver 470,000 houses by 2025 with the participation of the private sector.
He said the private sector has contributed 156,000 housing units since 2018.
“People deserve decency and entitlement to their properties and I’m informed that processing of title deeds on this property is work in progress. I also wish to commend the project proprietors for ensuring that requisite onsite and offsite infrastructure is in place before people occupy the buildings.
“The application of the densification model is a plus because we need to ensure that human settlement does not take so much land for economic sectors to thrive,” he said.
He urged the private land developer to consider rural development.
Garwe said government was also working towards improving rural areas to have them serviced and developed in a bid to decongest the main cities.
Meanwhile, West Property handed over 60 apartments to its customers.
The company has started building its third block at Millennium Heights that will have 112 units.
Sharpe said all the remaining eight blocks will be up totalling 1,000 apartments.
The businessman also said the cost of construction for the building project is US$400 million all to be completed within 10 years.
The project will also include construction of offices, recreational facilities and Zimbabwe’s largest mall among, other properties.