FOR many years, the Ngwenya Dam has been known to be notorious for dumping of bodies, a den of crime and pollution – visiting the place has always been at owner’s risk.
Driving about 10 minutes south of Lusaka’s central business district, one is greeted by slums and in the middle of the shantytown is a huge dam developed from excessive quarrying, and is full of plastic bottles and debris and sometimes human bodies.
While some have considered the place as a danger-zone, investors have seen Ngwenya Dam, which is popularly known as blue waters, as a tourism site, which can turn-around the economy and face of Msisi Township, which is characterised by unemployment and poverty.
One such investor is City Maria Investment Limited that plans to develop a multi-mode waterfront property development project at Ngwenya Dam (blue water) in Msisi Township, has called on local authorities to open the road leading to the dam.
The company, which last week signed promotion and protection agreement (IPPA) with the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA), is expected to develop a US$70 million project dubbed ‘Maria Pleasure Resort’, comprising an up market four-star hotel, conference rooms, restaurants, apartments, office buildings and boating facilities on the dam.
With the huge investment by City Maria Investment Limited, the project will be done in partnership with the Lusaka City Council (LCC).
The project will create over 300 jobs for the locals and surrounding areas thus helping to reduce the poverty levels in the area. About 2,000 people live in the area.
According to a business plan, City Maria Investment Limited plans to raise tUS$70 million from Bridgen Foundation of Belgium, a funding company while LCC as a guarantor will receive 50 percent of the company’s stock, a regular stream of dividends, and a seat on the board of directors.
City Maria Investment Limited director Dimitrios Monokandilos says the company will also develop apartments for the locals with an estimated cost of US$5 million expected to be injected to compensate about 400 households that will be displaced during the construction of the project.
The dam will be dredged, while the area around the dam will be reshaped and water purification plants will be set up to supply water to the city.
Currently, the investors have already started some preparation to make the area more people safe from the old quarry structure.
ZDA chairperson Mary Ncube acknowledges that the project will contribute to increasing available bed space, conference facilities and entertainment in Lusaka.
“The development of the Maria Pleasure Resort at the Ngwenya Dam famously known as blue water dam in Msisi compound will be therefore a positive and welcoming step in the country’s effort to facilitate economic development and contribute directly to jobs,” she said.
Ms Ncube explains that entering into an IPPA is aimed at ensuring that investors’ are protected while such huge investment will improve the livelihood and welfare of the people in the area.
“Government’s objective is that any investment made in the economy trickles down to the local community,” she states.
ZDA director general Perry Mapani is pleased to be facilitating the delivery of a new project, which is expected to harness the country’s tourism strength, encourage local tourism as well as stimulate job creation.
“In an environment where Zambia faces stiff international competition as a destination of choice for the tourist’s, collaborations’ between the public and the private sector are crucial.
‘‘As ZDA, we are committed to facilitate investments and working with local government institutions, community groups and the private sector to develop our country,” he said.
Mr Mapani said the project is an example of many investments that the agency is facilitating to bring about industrialisation and job creation.
From a dump yard, the place will be turned into a luxurious pleasure resort with an Arabic mystique ambiance and a lush of green landscape that will not just beautify the city but also create the much-needed employment in the hospitality industry.
Indeed, the multi-million dollar new development project will infuse life and hope in the area that is desolate, poverty-stricken and struggling today as observed by many residents.
For Priscilla Mulenga, a resident of Msisi Township, the project is a breath of fresh air as she is optimistic that she will get a job and is ready to work even as a cleaner.
“I am a vendor who sells meat and can hardly make ends meet so my hope is that I can get a job in one of the facilities that will be housed at the resort,” she said.
While the project is a key milestone in the transformation of Msisi Township, the development of the project is not devoid of challenges, with City Maria Investment Limited Company director Dimitrios Monokandilos saying that lack of a road will affect the effective implementation of the project.
“Someone has been awarded land right on the road leading to the dam, making it difficult to access the area. The road needs to be opened up so that the place can be easily accessed,” he said.
It is, therefore, imperative that local authorities and other stakeholders pave way for the smooth implementation of the resort so that Ms Mulenga and hundreds of other Msisi residents’ dreams to be employed can be realised.
Clearly, the area covering over 20 hectares will be turned into a clean, safe and habitable environment.