Rejection of Protea Hotel in Chiawa gains momentum

Protea Hotel, Cairo Road, Lusaka, Zambia

CONSERVATIONISTS, villagers and tour operators in Zambia want to bar Protea Hotels Zambia’s plan to build a 144-bedroomed hotel on the banks of the Zambezi River. Protea Hotels plans to construct the hotel in a wild area upstream from the world-renowned Mana Pools National Park and World Heritage Site. The hotel will be about 12km from the Lower Zambezi National Park. Protea Hotels Zambia is 97,5% owned by Union Gold and 2,5% by Mauro Guardigli, an Italian living in Zambia.
The group operates under the Protea Inns and Hotels (Pty) Ltd franchise of South Africa.
The construction of the hotel, the environmentalists argued, would have a huge impact on Zimbabwe.
According to information from various sources, the hotel will be built in an area which has already exceeded Zambia government’s recommended number of hotels.
A campaign against the project was started on the social network Facebook, with 8 070 individuals in support of the campaign –– “Save Mana Pools against the building of the hotel as of yesterday”.
Conservationists said the proposed hotel would disturb plans to have World Heritage Status extended to the Zambian side of the Zambezi.
But Protea Hotel chairman Mark O’Donnell said protests against the proposal were out of context because the environmental impact assessment (EIA) was yet to take place.
“Management wants to develop something that is appropriate and in harmony with the area,” O’Donnell told businessdigest from Zambia yesterday. “I have been quoted out of context most of the time. I do not know if I should continue talking to the media. We are a responsible company that follows the law and do things properly. So much of this is taken out of context, it is so disturbing, the negative reports are coming from people who do not know what is going on down there.”
Grant Cumings, vice chairman of Conservation Lower Zambezi of Zambia, was quoted in the Zambian media saying “the size and nature of the development was inappropriate for the site”.
“That model has proved successful for Protea Hotels in downtown Lusaka, but why put it in a wilderness? It will double overnight the number of hotel beds in the area, which are all operating at less than 50% occupancy, so it is not like there’s a huge market waiting to go there. And they’re not coming in at a cheap price,” Cunnings said.
An environmental planner, Derek Chittenden, said the hotel proposal “flies in the face of all sound planning principles”.
“If this goes through, it’s the beginning of the end for that area. It will have a huge impact on the Zimbabwean side, yet neither the Zimbabwean national parks or the government –– or even Unesco –– knew about the proposal,” Chittenden was quoted saying.
O’Donnell however said management had approached the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ) to consult them about producing an EIA study.
He said the purpose of an EIA was to ensure that what is done in the lower Zambezi area is appropriate for the area.
“People with concerns on the project are free to approach ECZ and submit their proposals. Protea will take into account what ECZ will advise,” O’Donnell said.
The hotel will consist of a central lodge, conference centre and six double-storey blocks of rooms. There will be moorings on the river for boats and a parking lot to take 40 vehicles.
The Independent of Zimbabwe

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