By Berio Mbala WINDHOEK Construction on the eagerly-awaited, multi-faceted Zambezi Waterfront Project on the banks of the Zambezi River is set to start this year. The multi-million-dollar project, initiated and bankrolled by the government, is intended to increase investment at Katima Mulilo and the Caprivi Region where, despite the road infrastructure being in a pathetic state, there is immense tourism potential. Once construction is complete, the project will promote community-based tourism in the Caprivi Region. The Zambezi WaterFront Project is a joint venture between the public and private sectors. The biggest of its kind in the region, the project has faced several delays resulting in rumour-mongering. The delays will result in government having to spend more as the present costs have eclipsed initial projections because of an escalation in building costs. According to the administrator of the Zambezi Waterfront Project, Geoffrey Mugwala, a feasibility study was conducted by Besinger Stubernrauch in 2002. It was found that if the project was completed by mid-2003, the estimate costs would be N$54 million but, due to the delay, other additions will now cost government another N$21 million of the initial projection. “The feasibility study conducted, indicated a certain amount of N$54 million to complete the project in 2003, and today’s figure indicated for the completion of the project is N$75 million,” said Mugwala. Though inflation has escalated the costs, Mugwala also attributed the increase to new additions that were proposed by stakeholders such as a cultural centre, while the other cause for the increased costs is building material such as cement. The new additions will include facilities such as a harbour for traditional dugout canoes, roads infrastructure, public walkways, a plaza, an aquarium, a craft centre and landscaping. The private sector would be involved in the construction of “a floating restaurant, a four-star hotel, a self-catering holiday resort, a putt-putt recreational centre and a three-star Khuta,” he explained last Friday while in Windhoek to attend meetings related to the project. He said: “The project has been delayed due to some obstacles which needed to be overcome before going ahead, such as forming a private company for this specific project and securing land from the Town Council, since the land at the town belongs to the Town Council.” Another reason for the delay is that Mugwala had to apply for a piece of land on which the project is to be located. He also had to find sponsors for the project from both the private and public sectors. He added that the main reason why this project is being undertaken is to improve tourism in the region, the living standard of people, and to improve the economic base of Katima Mulilo, a town bereft of an industrial base and dependent mainly on residents for its revenue. “So far, we have started with clearing the site in order to pave the bulk earthwork, and we would like to block off the flood which always affects the area because this site is flood area,” he said. He said the construction itself would start late this year by a company whose name he would not divulge because it still has to be informed about the tender result. Mugwala said four companies had submitted tenders for building the project, and one was chosen. One of the residents of Katima Mulilo, Sibupeho Namanga, says: “This will be good for us because job opportunities will be created for our youth, and this can also improve our living standard.” He hinted that the project would not only benefit the people of the Caprivi, but also neighbouring countries.
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